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Fitzgerald Prosecutes $49K Embezzler, Secures 5-Year Sentence

Two crimes, two punishments, and two prosecutors, one who is Attorney General, and one who wants to be.

Rocky Roy Rardon abused his position as finance director of the nonprofit Prairie Hills Transit and Child Care Center in Spearfish to steal $49,164.04 from his employer. Per the recommendation of Lawrence County state’s attorney John Fitzgerald, the court on Wednesday gave Rardon ten years in prison, five of which will be suspended if Rardon pays back the stolen money.

“I think we need to send a message that when you steal this kind of money, there are consequences to it,” Fitzgerald said. “The state is not a collection agency. We are in the business of protecting victims from theft” [staff, “Local Man Gets 5 Years in Prison for Embezzling Nearly $50K,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2017.08.05].

Joop Bollen used his position as director of the state’s EB-5 visa investment program here in Aberdeen to write himself a no-bid contract to privatize that job, then used that position to avail himself of $1.24 million in money belonging to the state for personal use. Bollen put all that money back before the state noticed, but the state eventually charged Bollen with five counts of “unauthorized disposal of personal property subject to security interest.” Attorney General Marty Jackley secured Bollen’s guilty plea on one count, for which the court fined Bollen $2,104 and granted “suspended imposition of sentence”—i.e., removal of the conviction from Bollen’s record if he behaves himself during two years of probation.

Rardon’s crime may put Prairie Hills Transit and Chid Care Center out of business, not just because of the financial loss, but because of the loss of trust in the organization:

[Executive Director Barbara] Cline said that the organization is now in jeopardy of losing city and county funding because community partners have lost trust, feeling that the money wasn’t watched over effectively [BHP, 2017.08.05].

Bollen’s crime was part of a larger pattern of corruption that did put South Dakota’s EB-5 visa investment program out of business, because of the loss of the federal government’s trust in South Dakota’s ability to manage the program properly.

Fitzgerald announced in March that he intends to seek the South Dakota Republican Party’s nomination for attorney general in 2018. Jackley is termed out of that job and is seeking the SDGOP’s nomination for governor in 2018.


  1. Dana P 2017-08-06 10:04

    Glad to see Mr Rardon got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But yes, why the difference in the prosecutions? Wow. Not trying to give Noem or Sutton any hints, but this would be a great question to ask Jackley.

    I will try not to victim blame here, but what took PHT so long to figure this out? Was there an environment created there that made this easy peezy? For three full years of theft? I DO feel sorry for the people that trusted Mr Rardon, But I don’t believe that PHT or the child care there will be put out of business. Not by a long shot. Ms Cline is a master at getting money to roll in, and by her statement, she has already started that dialogue and the money will indeed roll in . She got a tax payer funded multi- million dollar building (stimulus funds that were re-directed by then Gov Rounds) and she has a nice little three figure salary to go with it. As well as the nepotism that exists there (her husband, her daughter and other family members are employees on the tax payer dime). Under Ms Cline’s direction, she had her drivers run ghost routes (no passenger pickups) to help pad PHT stats so that they could get higher dollar grants.

    Again, the taxpayers are the ultimate victims in these scams. Both by Rardon and by PHT.

  2. Mary Perpich 2017-08-06 10:42

    Bollen’s light sentence was no doubt in exchange for his promise not to blow the whistle on Mike Rounds.

  3. Tim 2017-08-06 10:42

    Dana, there is no way any of the Republican candidates are going to bring this up among one another, that would put them on record and force them to do something about Republican super majority corruption in this state, that won’t happen. However, it sure would be a good question to pound on from the Democratic candidate in the general.

  4. jerry 2017-08-06 10:59

    Mr. Rardon clearly did not support cult republican politicos. If he had put a tithe to the powers to be, he may have gotten off with probation all the way around by simply saying that gambling had caused the problem or online trading. That is always the go to excuse for the cult when they get caught even for several million that beats farmers out of their crops. Of course Joop had not only paid the tithe, he was getting it as well. So there is that. Fitz is just one more in a long line of sound bites that mean about as much as a barking dog in reining in corrupted cult republicans in South Dakota.

  5. Jenny 2017-08-06 11:15

    That’s what I was thinking Jerry, Rardon must not be a republican. It sounds crazy but in a state as partisan as SD, one needs to look into the Party one is a member of.

    I sure hope SD latest grain embezzler, Jared Steffensen of now defunct H&I Grain, will be sitting in prison for many many years for gambling away millions that should have been paid to Kingsbury County farmers. His parents, JoAnn and Duane are claiming they didn’t know anything about his gambling problems. Maybe as owners, they should have been been watching the books or maybe they had some gambling issues of their own.
    Of course SD will never know b/c it’s all closed record laws in SD. So the embezzling and corruption will continue and PUC will continue to be lazy and not argue for stricter regulations.

  6. Jenny 2017-08-06 11:22

    Dana, if that’s true that Barbara Cline was running routes with no passenger pick ups to get a bigger grant then that should be reported to the State.
    (Oh wait, it doesn’t matter she’s republican so Pierre won’t do anything about it.)
    But really is that true? You must know live out there and have heard a lot of stuff? It does need to be reported.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2017-08-06 12:39

    South Dakota GOP recruiting poster:

    The more you steal from the state, the lesser the penalty.

  8. 96Tears 2017-08-06 13:05

    This is why it’s so sad Marty Jackley didn’t take my advice back when EB-5 was boiling and before GEAR Up had bubbled up. He had nothing to lose, and I mean NOTHING, by vigorously going after the Rounds racketeers who populated the Rounds administration from the Office of Economic Development to the Board of Regents.

    Same with Daugaard. Now that Dennis is in his final year of holding office, he will leave with the Rounds/Benda/Bollen scam splattered all over his legacy. Same with GEAR Up and the gravy train of operatives who fed at that trough and walked away from accountability. This is now all on Daugaard, and not Rounds who’s still prospering from evading any responsibility for the worst scandal in state history which started and flourished on his watch as governor in plain view of his cabinet and the Pierre insiders.

    I think Marty Jackley could make a decent Governor (or better) as long as he brings his people in and flushes out the cling-ons who knew of the widespread graft and either participated or condoned it. But I predict that Noem will create an independent campaign organization during the GOP primary who’ll spend millions revisiting the graft and violent deaths in an effort to peg Marty as the AG who turned away from doing his duty.

    There is a ton of material there, and that would be sad. Noem would make a thoroughly rotten governor and she’ll bring in a crop of bums who’ll bilk the system worse than under Rounds.

  9. grudznick 2017-08-06 17:36

    Why is not Mr. Nelson dragging these people in front of this GOCA thing also? When these non-profits abuse the public trust we need to root out all the evils. GOCA is not doing their job. I, for one, wonder if the Council on Legislatures needs to have many more employees to root out these evils, but that would mean Mr. Nelson has to stand up for Big Government.

  10. John 2017-08-06 19:55

    Fitzgerald established long ago with the Deadwood casinos that the State is not a collection agency; he forced the casinos to establish their own due diligence before he’ll weld the prosecution on the fraudsters. And he did take down fraudsters in casino or construction or other crime. South Dakota needed a professional prosecutor in the AG’s office the past 8 years, but sadly it appears that it did not have one. Now it appears that Jackley strives to fulfill the Peter Principle by running for a higher office.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-06 22:39

    Ghost routes? Uh oh—is there a deeper story waiting to be told? Or has that already been in the press?

  12. Lawrence County 2017-08-06 23:33

    John is a professional prosecutor. He’s one of a kind. Thank you for bringing this to light.

  13. Dana P 2017-08-07 08:37

    yes, the malfeasance at PHT was reported years ago when it happened, but alas………it went nowhere. (gee, I wonder why?)

    I used to live in Spearfish, but grew weary of the corrupt local politics there (I guess they learned from the state) and I moved. The “deal” that PHT made with the City of Spearfish for the location of their new building, from the get-go, was laden with greased palms and was the last straw for me. That stimulus funds that went to South Dakota with the intent to stimulate SD’s economy and some of those funds were re-directed for a bus transit building? The only thing that “stimulated” was Ms Cline’s status.

    again, I’m glad that the thief at PHT was caught, but I guess I have to wonder (and if I was a donor I would be asking this question) who is watching the shop at PHT? Why did it take so long to uncover these thefts? Does PHT create an environment where this type of thing was so easy? (lack of audits or oversight sound familiar anyone?) Cline playing the victim here is laughable. Just laughable. That there aren’t tougher questions to Ms Cline in light of this theft is just how South Dakota rolls…..nothing to see here…..move along.

    And the other big question is why Bollen got off with a slap on the hand, (for millions) and Rardon is about to do a long term check in. (I don’t have any proof of course, because I’m long gone from Spearfish and people that I knew that worked at PHT – but I do believe that Rardon would have some interesting stories to tell about the inter-workings of PHT)

  14. Douglas Wiken 2017-08-07 19:19

    I would like to see something like embezzlers having to repay 3 times what they stole and forgetting about putting them in prison which will cost taxpayers $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

  15. Andrew 2017-11-27 19:02

    Yea John is a great guy….Practices flagrant nepotism by employing his daughter, who has failed the bar twice, as a Deputy State’s Attorney. Totally illegal, but we’re in South Dakota, where we don’t enforce laws we don’t like, such as U.S. Code › Title 5 › Part III › Subpart B › Chapter 31 › Subchapter I › § 3110.

    He also fails to prosecute obvious Civil Rights violations. Civil Rights violations he is well aware have been committed by the City of Spearfish and it’s agents. It’s a wonderful human being who ignores the oath of office he was required to take to accept the position he now holds and the one he seeks. Yep, that’s what we need as our Attorney General, a cheater and lier. We’ll spread the crookedness of Lawrence across the state.

    I find it odd…all the applause over such a hypocrite. First time I ever voted for a Republican was a vote for him….That mistake won’t be repeated.

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