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A St. Croix County Circuit Court judge sentenced an Ellsworth woman to a prison term exceeding state recommendations for stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from a River Falls care facility. Elizabeth A. Palo, 49, was sentenced to five years in prison for felony theft from a business Feb. 16. She must also pay back $310,000 to Kinnic Health and Rehab, a River Falls nursing home and care facility where she used to work as an office manager. Palo pleaded guilty to embezzling the money in December.
St. Croix County is slated to pay less interest than expected on its proposed highway maintenance facility after approving the lowest bid for the project's general obligation bonds. The lowest of nine bids came from Minneapolis-based Northland Securities, Inc., which offered a 3.0051 percent interest rate for the $27 million project. That rate will tack on about $9 million in interest over 20 years, which is about $1.3 million less that the county projected earlier this year. County supervisors approved the bid with a 17-2 vote Feb. 8.
The sun may have warmed the air to a balmy 15 degrees Saturday, but Lake Carver maintained its icy conditions. The brisk temperatures, however, couldn't stop nearly 500 people from leaping into the frozen lake for the 2018 Woodbury Polar Plunge, an annual event local law enforcement organizes to raise money for Special Olympics Minnesota. This year's event raised about $82,000. Kayte Barton, a Woodbury athlete who earned two gold medals and a silver medal in swimming at the 1999 Special Olympics World Games, helped bring the event to Woodbury 18 years ago.
A new commission set to launch for St. Croix County will seek possible routes to address the area's growing transportation needs. The Transit Commission will develop policy regarding any transit programs the county develops, including transit options for senior citizens, people with disabilities and businesses whose employees commute. Commissioners' tasks will include contracting potential private partners, applying for transportation grants and purchasing new equipment. Any funding decisions, however, will remain under County Board authority.
St. Croix County will add two additional Children Services staff members as communities throughout the state struggle to serve children of families ensnared in substance abuse. The number of children the county's Health and Human Services department took into custody more than tripled from 2016 to 2017, marking the highest number in nearly a decade. Supervisors unanimously approved a budget amendment to fund the additional staffing at their Feb. 8 meeting.
A former teacher with South Washington County Schools was among at least three men arrested in Woodbury during a sex trafficking sting the week before Super Bowl. Andrew Henry Burfeind, 54 of St. Paul, faces a felony charge of felony charges of soliciting prostitution from someone age 13 to 16. According to the Washington County criminal complaint: Burfeind responded to a Backpage.com post law enforcement placed as part of an undercover operation depicting the poster as a 15-year-old boy.
A California woman was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for her role in a "sophisticated" sex trafficking ring spanning 29 states. Washington County Judge Susan Miles sentenced Hong Jing, 50, of Irvine, Calif., Feb. 9 after being convicted of felony racketeering and aiding and abetting prostitution charges. The plea arrangement saw four additional felony charges dismissed.
A weeklong investigation targeting patrons of child sex trafficking led to at least three arrests in Woodbury the week of Super Bowl. Authorities with the multi-agency East Metro Sex Trafficking task force during the undercover investigation posted advertisements to cragislist.com and backpage.com alluding to paid sexual acts with children younger than 16. The men who responded to the posts were instructed to come to an apartment in Woodbury, where they were arrested upon arrival.
A Cottage Grove man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife following a failed murder-for-hire plot. A Washington County jury convicted Stephen Carl Allwine of first-degree premeditated murder Jan. 31, concluding a week-long trial. Washington County District Judge William B. Ekstrum handed down the life sentence Feb. 2. First-degree murder convictions come with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
A Cottage Grove man has been convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. Stephen Carl Allwine drugged and shot his wife, Amy Allwine, before attempting to stage her 2016 death as a suicide, prosecutors said. Her death followed the failure of an elaborate, months-long plot Stephen Allwine hatched to have his wife killed. Jurors agreed, issuing a guilty verdict Jan. 31 after nearly eight hours of deliberation, the Pioneer Press reports. Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 2.