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Former Nemont Employee Pleads Not Guilty On 111 Felony Counts

At an initial appearance Feb. 15 in 15th Judicial District Court, Jennifer Leischner (formerly Cromwell) of Scobey pleaded not guilty to 111 felony counts. Stemming from her term as an employee at Nemont Telephone, she is charged with multiple alleged offenses of defrauding the company within nine defined felonies.

Present in the Daniels County Courtroom were Daniels County Attorney Logan Olson representing the State and Leischner. Present via Zoom were Judge Cybulski and attorney for the defendant, Terry Toavs. Also representing the State, as a Special Deputy County Attorney is former Assistant United States Attorney, W. Adam Duerk of Missoula. He was not present for the initial hearing.

The court was reminded the defendant’s surname had been restored to Leischner in court proceedings on Feb. 14.

Toavs asked that the defendant be released on her own recognizance. Olson requested $75,000 bail be imposed. After considering arguments and testimony presented by the State, defendant and her attorney, Judge Cybulski agreed to her release on her own recognizance subject to conditions requested by Olson and agreed upon by all parties.

The 111 individual felony counts (offenses) are the sum concerning the following.

Count 1: Theft (Conspiracy); Count 2: Deceptive Practices (Conspiracy); Count 3: Deceptive Practices (Conspiracy); Count 4; Money Laundering (Conspiracy); Count 5; Theft (Common Scheme); Count 6: Deceptive Practices (Common Scheme); Count 7; Deceptive Practices (Common Scheme); Count 8: Deceptive Practices (Common Scheme); Counts 9 through 111, Money Laundering (Common Scheme).

When asking Olson for clarification, “It might be confusing, but charges are for 111 separate felony counts,” he said.

The allegations cover a period from 2014 to 2020 while Leischner was a marketing specialist employed by Nemont Telephone.

During that time period, ostensibly under her direction, Nemont’s funds were intended to be used for advertising and marketing services provided and/or acquired by M.C. Marketing of Billings. Charges claim a large portion of the Nemont funds earmarked for these purposes (approximately $646,000) was funneled to the defendant individually and to Leischner’s shell company, JC Media Group, with the assistance of an uncharged co-conspirator of Billings, with M.C. Marketing.

Investigators believe that between May 2018 and January 2020, on average over $18,000 per month from Nemont’s marketing budget was going to Leischner in the form of kickbacks and fictitious advertising purchases.

Charges allege Nemont was never advised by Leischner that cooperative funds had been routed into individual bank accounts and put towards credit card payments for her personal benefit.

Included in Leischner’s 12 conditions of release include that she obey all orders of the court; she shall not engage in the sale of any property, real or personal, without prior permission of the court if the property is worth more than $1,500, except to pay attorney fees; not engage in any business transactions except those associated with her job in Scobey; supply detailed information and notification to Daniels County Sheriff’s Department if leaving the county; shall not leave the State of Montana unless receiving prior permission from the court, excluding trips to Williston, N.D.; surrender her passport; sign a waiver of extradition; appear at all proceedings in this matter; submit to any search of her home, vehicle, or person upon the request of law enforcement or officer of the Court; have no contact with any victims or witnesses; check in with the Daniels County Dispatch Center every Monday morning with a current phone number and physical address.

Two co-conspirators remain unnamed and uncharged.

A case management hearing has been scheduled for May 15.

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