Ross Haugen pleads guilty to seven felony counts
Needs to pay $2.1 million to victims by January 29
GRAFTON – Former Walsh County stockbroker Ross O. Haugen, 59, pled guilty to seven B felony counts of acting as an unregistered broker/dealer in state district court last Wednesday in Grafton.
Wednesday’s court date was originally scheduled to be a pre-trial conference in advance of a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 29, 2013.
Through his attorney Steven Meshbesher, Haugen indicated that he wanted to change his plea to guilty to the seven felony counts.
By pleading guilty, Haugen admitted to illegally selling six elderly county residents $2.5 million worth of securities in 2006 and 2007. Each felony count carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in prison.
Through his attorney, Haugen also said he wanted to come up with $2.1 million in restitution to the six elderly Walsh County residents.
Honorable Judge Laurie Fontaine ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set March 13 as the date for sentencing in the case.
Walsh County States Attorney Barb Whelan said that if Haugen can come up with the money to make the victims whole, it would be the recommendation of the Walsh County States Attorney office to keep Haugen on supervised probation with the stipulation that he not be allowed to be involved in any financial or securities transactions.
“The main thing is making the elderly victims whole,” Whelan told The Walsh County Record Tuesday. “If restitution of the $2.1 million is paid back to six Walsh County residents, I will consider that a success.”
Judge Fontaine set Jan. 29 as the date Haugen will be required to have the full amount of restitution in his attorney’s trust account.
Whelan said if the Haugen does not come up with the money in the allotted time, there will be no plea agreement deal and the case will proceed on March 13, on an open plea of guilty to the seven B felony counts.
Even if Haugen does come up with the money, the ultimate decision lies with Judge Fontaine.
“If the judge thinks it is reasonable she can accept it. If she does not think that is a reasonable disposition she can reject it,” Whelan said.
Whelan said in the event the agreement was rejected, Haugen would be able to withdraw his guilty pleas if he chose and a trial date could be re-set.
Drawn out affair
Haugen was first arrested in June, 2010, spent time in the Walsh County Law Enforcement Center jail and was formally charged with 53 counts of theft and fraud. He later was released from jail after posting $500,000 bond. At the time the counts alleged that he either defrauded or stole $3.5 million from seven Walsh County residents.
Between the spring of 2006 and September 2007, Haugen served as vice president of sales and marketing for Coadum where he sold more than $15 million in phony securities to investors in the United States and Canada, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission officials.
At no time while he was selling for Coadum was Haugen a registered dealer or broker with the North Dakota Securities Department.
According to results of the investigation Haugen told investors their money was safe. Meanwhile Coadum founders James Jeffrey and Thomas Repke were shipping the money overseas to accounts in Malta and Switzerland.
Both Repke and Jeffrey pled guilty to federal charges of fraud and are both serving prison sentences.
In November 2011, Haugen pled guilty to some of the counts against him and stayed out of jail on supervised probation after paying $185,000 in restitution and agreeing to not engage in any practices as a financial advisor.