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Published July 25, 2012, 09:47 AM

Minnesota Pastor sentenced for embezzling from synod

HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) — A former Minnesota pastor is sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Lutheran synod.

HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) — A former Minnesota pastor is sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Lutheran synod.

Leon Piepenbrink worked with the Hmong community at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Inver Grove Heights. He was fired in August 2010 after allegations of the embezzlement surfaced. The theft of as much as $300,000 from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod took place from 2007 to 2010.

Prosecutor Scott Hersey says Piepenbrink's claim that he took the money to help the needy is "highly suspicious." The St. Paul Pioneer Press says the 52-year-old St. Paul man pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft by swindle in April.

A Dakota County District Court judge also ordered Piepenbrink to serve 20 years of probation.

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