Milaca – A scheduled jury trial will not happen after Phillip Andrew Sam pleaded guilty in Mille Lacs County Court to theft-by-swindle charges in exchange for having the charge reduced from a felony to a gross misdemeanor.
A plea of not guilty had been entered for Sam during an April 2017 disposition, court records show.
Sam, 31, of Coon Rapids and formerly of Milaca, appeared in Judge Steven A. Anderson’s court Aug. 3 and agreed to waive his right to a jury trial. Anderson ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Minnesota court records show that Sam is scheduled to appear Sept. 28 for sentencing.
He and Christie Joy Ransom, 39, of Willmar, were originally charged with felony theft-by-swindle punishable by 10 years in jail, $20,000 or both. They’re accused of keeping approximately $15,000 from a 2014 fundraiser benefit they organized for Sam’s brother. Court records show that Ransom’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 23.
Sam’s brother Nicholas Sam has the rare fungal infection blastomycosis meningitis, which has severely affected his body and neurological systems.
A criminal complaint filed in Mille Lacs County District Court alleges the defendants collected donations that were deposited into Ransom’s bank account but not given to Sam’s brother. The complaint states that bills for the fundraiser event venues – Stone’s Throw Golf Course in Milaca and Northern Lights Ballroom in Pease – amounted to about $4,300 and were not paid. The complaint also alleges that Sam reported about $8,000 less in benefit proceeds than was shown by an investigation of deposit receipts.
Anderson confirmed Sam’s guilty plea and made sure he understood his rights. As the facts were read and Sam was asked to confirm them, the defendant contended that he’d paid back the money owed to the event venues.
The court confirmed Phillip Sam had given a check to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office and asserted that the money had not come from him but from his grandmother. He replied that was incorrect and that the money had come from him.
The court asked if he’d ever put the benefit proceeds into a trust fund and he said no. The questions confirmed that he intentionally withheld funds from his brother and had reasons to do so that were not legally justified.
Anderson said Sam would be on probation as of that day and would need to remain law abiding and make all future court appearances. He said judgment and conviction would take place after a pre-sentence investigation.