WASECA — A former Waseca bar owner who was accused of setting her bar on fire after she stole money from a youth group's pull tab booth has pleaded guilty to two charges.
Rachelle Lynn Schoknecht, 49, pleaded guilty to felony theft by swindle and misdemeanor setting a negligent fire Thursday in Waseca County District Court. A felony arson charge was dismissed in a plea deal that proposes no jail time.
Schoknecht was a co-owner of the former Nashville Saloon on South State Street. She now is living in Nashville, Tennessee.
In October 2018 she was accused of withholding proceeds from the pull tab booth located in her bar that were supposed to benefit the Waseca Hockey Association.
According to the charging complaint in that case:
A hockey association board member called police after Schoknecht claimed she could not access the association's money because it was locked in a safe that had malfunctioned.
An audit showed the bar owed the association nearly $6,300. When the safe was finally opened it contained only $4,000. Schoknecht refused to turn over those funds.
Schoknecht accused employees of taking the missing funds. One of those employees told investigators Schoknecht once told her she didn't have money to pay the band that was performing that night so she planned to take pull tab proceeds.
A small fire occurred at the Nashville Saloon the day after Schoknecht was charged with theft.
According to the complaint in that case:
John Schoknecht told investigators he believed his wife had started the fire. They lived above the bar and he said his wife kept claiming she smelled smoke. He did not smell anything but he went down to check on her behest and found and extinguished a small fire.
The words “out” and a profanity were written on walls and windows of the bar. Rachelle claimed she had received threats on social media regarding the theft accusation and she suspected one of the threat makers had set the fire.
But she could not produce any proof of said messages and the handwriting of the messages left on the walls and windows appeared to match Schoknecht's handwriting.
Schoknecht entered an Alford plea, meaning she did not admit she is guilty of the crimes but believes she would be convicted if the cases went to trial.
A proposed plea agreement reached between Schoknecht and Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius Androli proposes no jail time. The deal calls for Schoknecht to serve three years of probation, pay $4,000 in restitution to the hockey association and either complete 240 hours of community service or pay a commensurate fine.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 3.