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Hubbard County jailer/dispatcher charged with three felonies

Lana O'Bannon

A longtime Hubbard County jailer/dispatcher is facing three felony charges in connection with her ex-husband's bank accounts and has been placed on administrative leave.

Lana Jo-Lynn O'Bannon, 44, of Park Rapids, known as Lana Jo Yliniemi, was placed on paid administrative leave March 18, one day after being charged by Becker County.

She is accused of check forgery and theft of property, both punishable by a maximum of 5 years and/or a $10,000 fine and fraudulent use of a financial transaction card, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine upon conviction.

The charges stem from complaints made by Dale Yliniemi, a Becker County resident, of a suspected theft and forgery that occurred on his Hubbard County bank account during the summer of 2010.

According to the complaint, Lana O'Bannon is accused of writing 11 checks worth $1,477.78 on her ex-husband's account and using his financial transaction card to withdraw $4,293.27 from his account. The transactions took place between June and September 2010, according to the complaint.

She has been summoned to a court appearance April 25 in Hubbard County. The Hubbard County Attorney's office turned the case over to Becker County for investigation and prosecution because of a conflict of interest.

O'Bannon's paid leave is the second in the last month in the Sheriff's Department. Jeremiah Johnson, the K-9 deputy, was terminated effective April 1 for unspecified reasons after initially being placed on leave weeks earlier.

Although the reasons for Johnson's termination were not provided by the county, a source told the Enterprise Johnson had evaded a question on his job application for a minor criminal conviction he received in Beltrami County a decade ago. He began his career with the county March 30, 2005.

The possession of stolen property charge was not a deterrent to Johnson holding a peace officer license, the state standards board said.

Johnson was initially also a target of the Becker County probe but no charges have been filed against him.

The two absences have dealt a blow to a department recovering from a brutal election and a critical manpower shortage. One sergeant has been off duty for months with back problems.

"Basically we're utilizing the staff we have, which means we're paying out some overtime to cover some shifts and we're also utilizing our part-time officers as well," Sheriff Cory Aukes said.

The status of the department's K-9 officer Vulcan, a German shepherd purchased from the Czech Republic 2½ years ago, is uncertain.

He is temporarily being taken care of by city K-9 officer Dan Kruchowski.

"Anytime you take a person who's not been trained in it you're sending the officer to school as well," Aukes said. "In this particular case with Vulcan, he is already a trained canine officer but currently we don't have anyone that's trained in it."

Aukes said sale of the dog is one possibility being considered.

"He's six years old and there's still a few years left in an animal so there's value there absolutely," Aukes said.

Kruchowski's K-9 partner Pax recently retired. The Park Rapids Police Department will begin fundraising for a new dog. Taking Vulcan is not an option, Police Chief Terry Eilers said, because the dogs bond so closely with their human partners.

Aside from the dog dilemma, both Johnson and O'Bannon were early supporters of Aukes when he launched his campaign for sheriff last year.

"Any time you're dealing with somebody's future and their career, it's a very hard decision," Aukes said. "They were supporters of mine. But as a supervisor I need to look beyond who supported who in an election and I have to do what I believe is right and what's the best thing for the department.

"Some of the decisions that are made, we do consult with our labor attorney, they do make recommendations based on certain things that have taken place so that is taken into consideration as well as the things that have truly taken place," Aukes added.

"As a supervisor in this career there's certain things that law enforcement officers cannot do and the decision was made on that partially as well."

O'Bannon's career began at the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department in July 2002, where she has served as a jailer and dispatcher.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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