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Sletten apologizes, justifies felony action

12/11/08 (Thu)

Sletten apologizes, justifies felony action

By JILL DENNING GACKLE

Pride, vanity and a desire to support his family were the three reasons former Garrison attorney Doug Sletten gave for raiding his clients’ trust accounts. Sletten, 62, was sentenced Monday to 41 months in a federal minimum security prison, probably in Yankton, SD.

Sletten admitted Aug. 12 to income tax evasion for failure to file tax returns in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and to owing at least $70,000 (plus interest and penalties) in those years. He admitted to taking $614,247.10 from his clients’ trust accounts for living expenses, college tuition for his family, travel and other personal expenses. That crime netted him a federal mail fraud charge because he sent letters containing false and misleading information to his clients.

Sletten said prior to sentencing, "I wish I could undo what I did or I wish these people could be made whole. If there is anything I could do to make them whole, I would do it in a New York minute. I take full responsibility for what I did."

He said, "Any sentence you would give me I deserve."

Sletten explained that his actions were a result of not having "enough money to provide for the family. I thought I could put it (funds) back." He told the judge about a stroke he suffered in November 2001 that left him out of work for four months and then with difficulty speaking after that. "It just got worse," he said.

Sletten was asked by the judge if he has a gambling, drug or drinking problem. He said, "It was just pride and vanity, that I could not take care of my family and I couldn’t admit it to myself."