Hazel receives suspended 5 year sentence

Hazel receives suspended 5 year sentence
Carol Hazel, the former business manager of the Southeast Area Cooperative, Beresford, was sentenced Nov. 26 to five years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary on charges of grand theft by embezzlement, a Class 4 felony.

Hazel, of Beresford, appeared before Circuit Court Judge Steven R. Jensen on Nov. 26 in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point.

Jensen suspended the penitentiary sentence, and placed Hazel on supervised probation for five years.

He also ordered the Beresford woman to serve 90 days in the Union County Jail. Her jail time will begin on Jan. 2, 2008.

In February 2007, Gerald Kaufman Jr., attorney for the Southeast Area Cooperative, provided documents, statements, invoices and forensic accountings to the office of Union County State's Attorney Jerry A. Miller.

According to a press release from Miller's office, a review of the evidence revealed that Hazel had been making personal purchases with cooperative funds and concealing her activities.

The illegal activity took place, according to the evidence, from mid-November 2000 through early October 2005.

When the misappropriation of funds was discovered, Hazel was dismissed from employment.

An extensive audit process was then begun to discover and document the extent of Hazel's wrongdoing.

Southeast Area Cooperative is a public institution which provides educational services to the public and multiple school districts in southeast South Dakota, including several schools in the Vermillion area.

The cooperative receives and manages local, state and federal funds and grants to support its mission.

Hazel's probation consists of obeying all laws and paying all monetary obligations.

She was fined $1,500 and ordered to reimburse Southeast Area Cooperative $3,930 in restitution.

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