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Ramsay guilty in eye clinic theft case; starts jail term

Jail time will be served by an East Otter Tail woman convicted of embezzling from a Perham-based eye clinic.

Ruth Ann Ramsay, on June 14, began serving a 20-day sentence at the Otter Tail County Detention Center.

Ramsay pled guilty to felony theft. Two other theft charges were dropped, as a condition of the plea agreement.

Ramsay, who was convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from the Perham Eye Clinic, was placed on supervised probation with the Department of Corrections for up to five years. Conditions of the probation require her to pay a fine; that she have no similar violations of law; and that she serve 20 days. Ramsay will have work-release privileges during her incarceration.

The thefts took place over a span of a decade, from about 1997 to Sept. 18, 2007.

As part of an agreement in civil court, reached about eight months ago, Ramsay was also ordered to pay restitution for the amount that was stolen, at a total of $125,121.

In conjunction with her guilty plea June 10, in Otter Tail County District Court, Ramsay requested that she begin serving the jail sentence as soon as possible, according to Otter Tail County Assistant Attorney Michelle Eldien. The request was honored, though Ramsay's actual sentencing hearing is still pending.

At the sentencing hearing, Dr. Tim Nietzke and his business associates at the Eye Clinic are expecting to ask for an additional $30,000. This restitution is aimed at defraying some of the costs Nietzke's firm incurred for legal fees and other associated expenses, according to Eldien. If further restitution is awarded, it would likely be required to be repaid over the course of Ramsay's probationary period.

Nietzke estimated his costs associated with the case at nearly $250,000.

"This is one of the larger embezzlement cases in the county," said Nietzke.

Eldien agreed, noting that business theft cases of this kind rarely enter the six figure mark.

"We had a million dollar case once, and recently a $300,000 case, but the most typical case is in smaller figures," said Eldien. "It's not something we see every day."

Other conditions that were attached to Ramsay's guilty plea include:

•No contact with the victims of the crime.

•Do not leave the state without court approval.

•Keep court/attorney informed of current address.

•Make all future court appearances.

•Make and maintain contact with the attorney.

A jury trial, originally scheduled for June 23, was cancelled following the June 10 guilty plea.