Tabor Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Wire Fraud
United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced that Steven Joseph Bares, age 53, of Tabor, South Dakota, appeared before U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on September 13, 2022, and pleaded guilty to an Information that charged him with wire fraud.
The maximum penalty upon conviction is 20 years in custody and/or a $250,000 fine; three years of supervised release, a violation of any condition of release could result in two years of additional custody on any such revocation; $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund; and restitution.
Bares willfully and unlawfully devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and obtain money and property from two parishes by false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.
Saint Wenceslaus Parish in Tabor, South Dakota, and Saint John the Baptist Parish in Lesterville, South Dakota, are two small Catholic parishes located in rural South Dakota towns. The churches shared a single priest. The only administrative staff at the churches was Bares, who primarily worked as the bookkeeper. In that capacity, Bares wrote checks to pay bills and entered checks in the general ledges.
In May 2021, the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese, on behalf of the above-named parishes, hired an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit. The audit uncovered multiple checks made out to companies belonging to Bares that did not correspond to any service or equipment purchased from those companies. Furthermore, these checks were neither entered in the general ledger nor entered as a legitimate expense.
Between January 2013 and March 2020, Bares embezzled money from two Parishes, totaling $324,001.37. The investigation confirmed that the checks identified in the audit report were deposited into accounts held by Bares.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri.
A presentence investigation was ordered and a sentencing date was set for December 12, 2022. The defendant was released on bond pending sentencing.