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North Dakota woman pleads guilty to stealing $1.5M from company

WILLISTON, N.D. - A 56-year-old Williston woman accused of stealing about $1.5 million from her employer between 2009 and 2017 pleaded guilty to the crime in Northwest District Court on Monday, April 15.

Barbara Langerud had been accused of taking between $1.5 and $1.6 million from her employer, Imperial Oil of North Dakota between 2009 and 2019, by writing herself checks from an account she was supposed to have closed that handled oilfield royalty payments.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Langerud was given a 10-year sentence. She will serve three years and 364 days in prison, and then be released under supervised probation for three years. She is to have no contact with Imperial Oil employees or its owner.

Langerud also agreed to pay restitution of $1,570,103.25. She has already paid $151,650 and will transfer certain mineral rights to Imperial Oil. She also agreed to forfeit $7,500 posted for her bond to apply to the restitution.

States Attorney Nathan Madden said that he was taking several factors into consideration in his recommendations.

“It wasn’t a one-time oopsie,” he said. “It had been going on a long time. If it had been a small amount, due to grabbing the wrong card, it would be different. But given the amount of time and money involved, and given her health and age, that is kind of where we came to on this.”

The fact that there was no prior history and that Langerud cooperated with authorities were also factors Madden weighed.

Langerud’s attorney Tom Dixon, in his remarks to the judge also hit on the same issues.

“She has no criminal history,” he said. “That is always huge. There’s been no obstruction of justice. Since day one, we have cooperated. And she has made substantial restitution.”

Dickson also presented the sentencing history for several comparable cases. Those individuals were all given similar sentences to that laid out in Langerud’s plea agreement.

Langerud, in a tearful statement, apologized to Imperial Oil and its owner Bill Walters.

“The way I chose to deal with my mental and physical issues was just wrong, on so many levels,” Langerud said. “And I just really need them to know that I am really, really sorry.”

Langerud said she had worked for Walters for 23 years.

“His family was my family,” she said. “And I know he is very angry at me right now, and maybe doesn’t believe that. But he was like the brother I never had. This didn’t have anything to do with him. It was my avoidance of dealing with my issues. I would like to just really let him know I’m sorry.”

Langerud also apologized to her family.

“They have been so supportive of me,” she said. “And I am just really sorry for the disappointment and embarrassment that I have caused them.”

Langerud thanked her therapist, who she said has helped her learn better ways to deal with her situation.

“It is hard to live with anxiety and depression,” she said. “And the medical issue I have is a nightmare. She has helped me tremendously, and I’m really going to miss her.”

Judge Kirsten Sjue said that while she has not had many cases like this one, nor one involving such a large amount of money, she has observed that these types of cases have a common thread. The defendant has usually known the victim for a long time, in a family type of relationship.

“In order to embezzle so much money over that period of time, the defendant usually very much has the trust of the victim,” she said. “So when something of this nature is discovered, it feels like the ultimate betrayal, and I understand that.”

While the defendant’s mental state and medical issues were cited as contributing factors, Sjue said that in her mind, it isn’t a primary consideration in deciding to accept Langerud’s plea agreement.

“There are people with anxiety and depression who don’t go down this road that you went down,” she said. “Who don’t make the choices you made.”

What weighed more heavily in Sjue’s decision to accept the plea deal was the case history presented by the defense, showing sentences for comparable crimes.

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