Prosecutors say a promoter of the Lumberjack Days festival in Stillwater transferred more than $40,000 into personal bank accounts instead of paying money owed to beer suppliers, a lighting company, and a youth hockey booster club.
David Eckberg was charged Friday with 10 criminal counts for allegedly writing four bad checks totaling nearly $55,000 in July 2011. The charges, which came after a year-long investigation by local law enforcement and prosecutors, include five counts of theft by check and five counts of issuance of a dishonored check.
"What was important to law enforcement in this office is that some justice be brought for these poor victims who put time, energy out to this festival, expected to pay be paid properly, and were swindled out of their time, effort and property," said Washington County prosecutor Brent Wartner.
Eckberg's attorney, Eric Thole, said his client did not intend to swindle anyone. Thole said the festival ran into financial problems because it rained and fewer people bought beer.
"The county hired an accounting firm to go through all his financial records, and all they came up with was four bad checks that can be explained by the bad economy and Mother Nature," Thole said.
Thole said Eckberg, 61, also lost money and had to file for bankruptcy. He said the transfers of money into personal bank accounts have been taken out of context by prosecutors.
"He's a private businessman who owns a company, so money's going to go back and forth," Thole said.
Prosecutors allege Eckberg transferred money into personal bank accounts for him and his wife, while telling vendors not to cash the checks because there was not enough money in the Lumberjack Days Association account.
Eckberg did not respond to a phone call Friday seeking comment.
An initial court date is scheduled for Jan. 24.
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