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Montana news briefsPosted on May 24

Montana news briefsPosted on May 24

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BILLINGS - A Lodge Grass man who pleaded guilty to stealing a law enforcement car and crashing it, was sentenced Wednesday to just over eight years in prison.

Richard Redfield pleaded guilty to depredation of government property. U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom sentenced him to eight years and one month in prison and ordered him to pay $13,313 in restitution.

On Oct. 30, 2005, a Bureau of Indian Affairs' police officer was dispatched to a house party in Lodge Grass.

Prosecutors say while the officer was inside the residence, Redfield crawled out a window, got into the officer's police cruiser and drove away. Redfield was driving erratically and then rolled the car down an embankment, causing $13,000 in damage.

BILLINGS - A Billings woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to Social Security number misuse, for using another woman's Social Security number to obtain two credit cards.

Brenda Graham, 35, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she is sentenced on Sept. 6.

Prosecutors say Graham used her position at a Wells Fargo Bank in Billings to obtain the Social Security numbers of two women.

She applied for and obtained two American Express credit cards, one in July 2003 and one in November 2003.

Court records say she charged $11,358 on the credit cards, made payments of $1,600 and tried to transfer balances of $23,465 to the accounts.

BILLINGS - A retired certified public accountant has donated $2.5 million to the Billings Area Catholic Education Trust in the name of his late wife.

Lowell Duffner, 83, made the donation Tuesday in memory of Tiz Duffner, who served as a volunteer librarian at the St. Pius X School for 30 years. She died in January at the age of 82.

"This is stewardship," Duffner said at a luncheon honoring financial supporters of Billings Catholic Schools. "What the good Lord gave to me, my stewardship is to pass on."

Six years ago, Duffner and his wife gave $3 million to the trust, which provides long-range financial support for the Catholic schools in Billings.

Their donations are the two largest to the trust.

"I worked hard, saved my money, invested wisely and lived moderately," Duffner said. "When we donated the $3 million, no one could believe it - not our neighbors, not our closest friends."

The Duffners' three children attended Billings Catholic schools.

BOZEMAN - Belgrade High School Principal Eric Gustafson has abruptly resigned.

The 1979 Belgrade High graduate was hired last year after co-principal Lee Hazelbaker retired. The other co-principal, Rick Sicilia, resigned a short time later after two years on the job.

Gustafson could not be reached for comment, and trustees and district officials are being tightlipped about his decision.

"I have no comment," said Superintendent Herb Benz. "I don't even know what's going to happen."

Benz did, however, say he has begun advertising for a new principal, a move Gustafson requested in his resignation letter.

BILLINGS - A Roundup Post Office clerk accused of stealing money from customers' mail pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court.

Rebecca R. Ring, 32, is charged with theft of mail by a postal employee.

Court records say the Roundup Post Office began receiving written complaints at least two years ago about money missing from their mail. The complaints would later disappear from the drawer in which they were kept, documents said.

In October 2005, a customer called the post office complaining that a birthday card she sent to Aurora, Colo., containing a $50 bill never arrived. She said the card was in a priority envelope with delivery confirmation, and that Ring was the clerk who had waited on her, court records said.

Later that day, another Roundup postal clerk discovered a rifled priority envelope and made copy of the confirmation information. When the clerk told the postmaster of the tampering and went to retrieve the envelope, it was gone, court documents said.

Postal inspectors initiated a sting and caught Ring forging an endorsement on a $200 money order and taking the money, and stealing two $100 bills from a greeting card, court records said.

Ring later admitted that on 10 occasions, she either cashed customers' money orders or opened customers' mail and removed things of value.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull set sentencing for Aug. 24. Ring was released on conditions. She faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised released.

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