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Fargo woman pleads not guilty to stealing over $450K from mother

Posted July 7

— A Fargo woman pleaded not guilty on Thursday, July 6, to charges she stole more than $450,000 from her elderly mother.

The case in Cass County District Court against Caroline Conrad stems from 2015, when Conrad was charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult and theft.

Prosecutors alleged Conrad stole about $450,000 that her mother, Monica Morrell, had placed in a credit union account they had shared access to so it would be easier for her daughter to help her manage her finances.

However, in a nearly 20-page ruling Cass County District Court Judge Steven McCullough later dismissed the charges, finding that the language in the application setting up the joint account unambiguously established that anyone named on the account was an owner.

McCullough also said in his ruling that the dismissal was made without prejudice, meaning it might be possible for charges to be refiled if prosecutors could come up with an approach that moves the case from the civil realm into the criminal arena.

Prosecutors appealed the case, and the North Dakota Supreme Court overturned the judge's ruling, stating the issues in question were not civil in nature.

According to court records, Morrell was living in Oregon until early 2014, when she sold the family farm and received about $500,000 after taxes. She moved to Conrad's Fargo home a short while later, but moved out in December 2014 after the two had trouble getting along, court documents said.

The joint account was set up when Morrell moved to Fargo, and Conrad's name was placed on the account in case an emergency required someone to help manage the money, court documents said.

About $115,000 was taken out of the account in June 2014 and moved to Conrad's personal account, according to court documents and prosecutors.

Conrad also made a flurry of transfers from the joint account to her personal account on or about the day Morrell left her daughter's home, court records said.

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