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Ex-manager of Wahpeton DMV office accusing of stealing more than $80,000

By Wendy Reuer / The forum

WAHPETON, N.D. – The former manager of the motor vehicle branch office here that closed temporarily last summer faces felony charges after an investigation found more than $80,000 in unaccounted transactions.

Catherine Muehler of Wahpeton faces one count of misapplication of public funds, a Class A felony.

A warrant for 72-year-old Muehler’s arrest was issued by Richland County District Court on Feb. 3, and Muehler made her initial court appearance on Feb. 4.

Muehler is the wife of former Richland County Sheriff Harlan Muehler, who was removed from office in 2001 by then-Gov. John Hoeven. Muehler was removed from office after keeping a secret office fund to pay for gifts, office parties and small items, and using degrading language in reference to female employees.

According to court records, Catherine Muehler owned and operated the motor vehicle branch office in Wahpeton for several years. As manager, she was authorized to open a special bank account for service fees collected by the office in addition to the fees paid to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

An investigation by the Bureau of Criminal investigation found that between Jan. 1 2012, and May 6, 2013, deposits into the account did not match what was received by the office, court records say.

Investigators believe transactions of more than $80,000 were made but not authorized during that time.

More than $100,000 is now owed to the DOT, according to the criminal complaint.

State residents are able to renew or order license plates and tabs at the branch office.

The Wahpeton branch office was closed May 6 and reopened June 25 under the management of the Wahpeton Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce, a NDDOT spokeswoman said.

Court records show Muehler has applied for a public defender, but was denied because her income or assets did not meet court guidelines.

Muehler is scheduled to return to court for an arraignment hearing on March 4.

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