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Ex-co-op worker: Boss never asked to keep extra money secret

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A former South Dakota educational cooperative employee charged in her now-dead boss's embezzlement scheme told state agents in 2016 she'd never been asked to keep secret years of extra salary that eventually spurred her ongoin...

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SIOUX FALLS (AP) - A former South Dakota educational cooperative employee charged in her now-dead boss's embezzlement scheme told state agents in 2016 she'd never been asked to keep secret years of extra salary that eventually spurred her ongoing theft trial.

Stephanie Hubers said in an interview with Division of Criminal Investigation agents played Wednesday in court that Scott Westerhuis never told her not to disclose the second salary she received from a separate nonprofit, The Argus Leader reported . Hubers is a onetime Mid-Central Educational Cooperative staffer accused of receiving about $55,000 to keep quiet about embezzlement by Westerhuis and his wife before their deaths in a 2015 murder-suicide.

"He never told me to keep quiet," Hubers said in the recording. "I was never told not to say anything to anybody."

Hubers, 45, has pleaded not guilty to one count of grand theft and two counts of grand theft by deception and three alternative receiving stolen property counts. She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines for each count.

Hubers also told investigators she knew Mid-Central bankrolled salaries at other organizations Westerhuis started, but was told the board of directors was aware of it. She said she didn't want to talk out of turn at their meetings.

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"I knew what it was," Hubers said. "I guess I was the lesser person. I kept my mouth shut and kept going on."

Defense attorney Clint Sargent argued that Hubers helped authorities with their financial investigation launched because Westerhuis in 2015 shot his wife and their four children, then set fire to their home and killed himself. Sargent said Hubers submitted invoices for the money and performed contract work with the nonprofit American Indian Institute for Innovation to earn it.

Authorities say she received roughly $55,000 from the nonprofit from 2009 to 2014 that she wasn't entitled to or that she knew had been stolen. Attorney General Marty Jackley earlier told jurors that Hubers invoiced the nonprofit for payment for work she didn't perform.

Authorities' investigation spurred the felony charges in 2016 against Hubers and two others who allegedly helped in the couple's embezzlement scheme. Investigators believe the total amount that Scott Westerhuis and his wife, Nicole, stole before their deaths surpassed $1 million.

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