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Former Grand Forks, Grafton stockbroker faces new charges

Ross Haugen, the former stockbroker and investment adviser from Grafton and Grand Forks, faced new charges Wednesday in state District Court of defrauding clients of their money as his defense attorney wrangled angrily with a prosecutor who said she's passionate about making sure Haugen is convicted.

Despite defense attorney Steve Meshbesher's argument that Haugen is broke and would need at least 48 hours to raise any money, District Judge Laurie Fontaine set bail on the new charges at $250,000 surety or 10 percent of it in cash on the nine new felony counts.

Within minutes of being booked into the Walsh County jail, Haugen had bailed out, a court official said.

Two former business associates of Haugen, David Hampton of South Daytona, Fla., and William Fisher, of Edmond, Okla., also were charged last week by Walsh County State's Attorney Barb Whelan with theft by fraud involving the same clients of Haugen.

They are expected to appear in Walsh County court later this fall, a court employee said.

Whelan said the investment schemes involved Haugen promising quick and big returns to longtime clients who ended up getting little or none of their money back. Instead, Haugen spent it on his lifestyle or in paying off business partners as part of a larger Ponzi scheme uncovered by federal investigators, Whelan alleges.

Meanwhile, the preliminary hearing on previous charges against Haugen of theft and fraud of about $3.5 million from several clients in Walsh County was delayed after daylong questioning Wednesday of two investigators from the North Dakota Department of Securities.

Fontaine gave attorneys from both sides until Sept. 24 to submit written closing arguments on the probable cause hearing. She will rule likely by mid-October on whether there is even evidence to take the charges in the first cases to trial, Fontaine said.

Haugen, who lives in a Twin Cities suburb, was in court in June facing 52 felony counts of taking $3.49 million from seven people in Walsh County in 2006 and 2007.

By the preliminary hearing Wednesday, Whelan had whittled the charges by about half, but they still include about 28 counts of Class B felonies involving the same seven former clients of Haugen and the same total amount of money invested.

The new charges involve more recent investments by one of the same former clients and include nine counts of Class B felonies, each with maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Haugen's wife, Jana, and his two daughters and their husbands, attended Wednesday's hearing. In an impassioned plea for a large bail amount, Whelan cited telephone conversations between Haugen and his wife and one of his daughters, recorded while he was in jail in Minneapolis and in Grafton in May and early June, as demonstrating that he still was concocting investment schemes.

But Meshbesher said those conversations occurred before Haugen's bail on the first charges was set June 3 and that he's followed Fontaine's orders to avoid even the appearance of selling securities.

Haugen was released on $50,000 cash bond on the initial charges June 3.