LE SUEUR — A Mankato business owner whose Kasota home was destroyed by fire in January has been charged with theft by swindle in Le Sueur County for a financial deal involving the landmark house.
Ruth Dutler, owner of Jerry Dutler’s Bowl, is accused of swindling her brother, Cole VanHorn of Montgomery, out of about $225,000. VanHorn reported the alleged theft to Bruce Collins, a Le Sueur County sheriff’s investigator, on Dec. 27. The house, which was next to the Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery off Highway 22 in Kasota, burned down January 31.
The cause of the fire could not be determined because the house was destroyed by the fire, according to the criminal complaint filed in Le Sueur County District Court Thursday.
Dutler said Friday she was not aware of the felony theft by swindle charge, which summons her to appear in court on June 11. She also described the situation as a business deal that went bad, not a crime.
Her brother told Collins she approached him in early November saying she was about to lose the house to foreclosure. VanHorn said Dutler asked to borrow $224,640 to pay off the mortgage, saying she was working on a deal with the winery to sell five or six acres of land around the house for about $340,000, the complaint said. The agreement was Dutler would pay back the loan plus additional funds after the land was sold.
VanHorn also told Collins he took the money he loaned to Dutler out of a trust account that had been set up for his adult daughter after she was injured in a car crash.
“I’ve offered over and over again to pay him back the money he lent me, but obviously that’s not good enough,” Ruth Dutler said. “It wasn’t theft by swindle and it won’t be. As soon as the insurance claim is settled I will pay him back with interest.”