Former Milbank Man Sentenced to Penitentiary
(Custer) – The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office announced today that LaVerne L. Berkner, 57, formerly of Milbank, SD, was sentenced April 5 by a Custer County judge to serve 4 years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
Berkner, formerly an agent of the Equitable Life Assurance Company of America, was convicted in 1998 of Attempted Embezzlement of Property Received in Trust. The charges arose after it was reported that he had altered the beneficiaries on a number of annuity contracts that he had sold to a business client. The contracts were altered to make the benefits payable, upon the client’s death, to Berkner, his wife, children, and a number of family friends, all contrary to the client’s wishes. At that time, Berkner was placed on probation and was ordered to serve 180 days in jail.
Following Berkner’s release from jail, law enforcement discovered that Berkner had stolen over $70,000.00 from two other Milbank clients. Berkner admitted at his sentencing that he had taken the money for his own benefit and had no intention of repaying the victims. In a plea agreement with the State, the State agreed to accept his admission to a probation violation and a resentencing on the original charges.
Berkner will be transported to the penitentiary in Sioux Falls this week.