3 members of South Dakota family sentenced for grain fraud

PIERRE (AP) — Three members of a South Dakota family accused of bilking millions from farmers due to risky speculation in the grain business have been sentenced to time behind bars.

Jared Steffensen and his wife, Tami Steffensen, pleaded guilty earlier to theft by deception and were sentenced Friday to five years in prison. Jared Steffensen’s mother, JoAnn Steffensen, pleaded guilty to failing to inform state regulators that the company was failing financially and was ordered serve 120 days in jail.

Authorities say Jared Steffensen lost between $6 million to $10 million of H&I Grain’s money hedging commodities in 2016. Even though the Steffensens knew that their business was insolvent, they continued to reassure farmers they were fine, took their grain, and did not notify state regulators as required by law.

H&I declared bankruptcy and some of the farmers did win a judgment against the Steffensens in civil court, although losses are expected to total about $5 million.

“It is good to see a favorable conclusion for the community after all the hardship the victims have faced in the aftermath of this complex financial crime,” state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said.

Duane Steffensen, who started the company, was facing charges as well, but died in January 2019.

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