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Press Release

Tabor Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Embezzling from Two Catholic Parishes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier has sentenced a Tabor, South Dakota, man convicted of Wire Fraud. The sentencing took place on January 17, 2023, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Steven Joseph Bares, age 53, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release.  He was ordered to pay $287,457.37 in restitution and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

According to court documents, Bares willfully and unlawfully devised a scheme 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 ledgers.

In May of 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 of 2013 and March of 2020, Bares embezzled money from the two parishes, totaling $324,001.37. The investigation confirmed that the checks identified in the audit report were deposited into accounts held by Bares.

This case was investigated by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri prosecuted the case.

Bares was ordered to self-surrender to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service on February 13, 2023.

Updated January 18, 2023

Financial Fraud