Former South Dakota elevator manager accused of embezzling $50,000

South Dakota prosecutors have charged the former manager of the McIntosh-Watauga Equity Exchange with embezzling nearly $50,000 from 2016 to 2020. They say the former manager of the small grain elevator co-op also violated requirements for reporting financial condition to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

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McINTOSH, South Dakota — The former manager of the McIntosh-Watauga Equity Exchange grain elevator is accused of embezzling nearly $50,000 from her former employer.

DeAnn Marie Holzwarth, 44, faces three charges, according to a complaint filed on Sept. 23, 2021, by Assistant Attorney General Mandi Miiller. One count accuses her of embezzling $49,732.99 from the elevator, and two counts accuse her of failing to notify the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission of financial conditions at the elevator.

Holzwarth has not entered pleas to the charges. She appeared in court before District Judge Eric Strawn on Oct. 4, 2021. The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing and arraignment for 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Nov. 15, 2021.

According to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office, McIntosh-Watauga Equity Exchange was formed Aug. 24, 1936. The trucks-only facility is located in McIntosh, just south of the North Dakota border and about 25 miles west of McLaughlin, South Dakota. McIntosh's population is 173, and it's the Corson County seat.

Holzwarth was listed as the registered agent for the McIntosh-Watauga Exchange since May 2, 2016, according to Secretary of State filings . The 2020 report, filed July 6, 2020, removed Holzwarth and listed the registered agent as the person holding the position as president. The elevator office referred calls to board President Brad Bauer and secretary Lisa Schell, who were not immediately available. Richard Fergel of Shields, North Dakota, is vice president.


Documents say that on Feb. 21, 2020, farmer Eugene Geigle, of McIntosh, requested payment for $41,157.25 for 2018 crop wheat, and the company failed to pay on the scale ticket. Geigle also reported that 3,365.68 bushels of stored wheat, with a value of $16,828, "went missing" between Feb. 27, 2020, and March 10, 2020,

According to the complaint against Holzwarth, she is accused of embezzling $49,732.99 between Jan. 1, 2016, and March 30, 2020. She is accused of failing to notify the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission of the “grain buyer” financial condition. Documents say that between Feb. 21. 2020, and March 26, 2020 Holzwarth knew the elevator was not in compliance with the commission’s “financial standard” for a grain buyer, which is upon demand. She also is accused of failing to notify the SDPUC of the “grain warehouse” financial condition between Feb. 27, 2020, and March 10, 2020.

Hank Prim, an investigator, a special agent with the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation, detailed the case in an Aug. 24, 2021 probable cause affidavit. Corson County Sheriff Keith Gall also investigated.

Prim said Bradley Bauer, the president of the elevator board, told investigators that Holzwarth had served as the elevator manager since 2016. Bauer said Holzwarth gave two weeks notice and left the organization. When Lisa Schell, the co-op board’s secretary, reviewed the records, she found “multiple suspicious transactions.”

On April 22, 2020, Bauer explained the elevator was missing the bushels belonging to Geigle.

Gall determined there were $12,897.98 in “suspicious expenditures” on co-op accounts from October 2018 through July 2019. Credit card statements from the co-op were for “personal” uses — “clothing, gas, and restaurant purchases in areas of the state where the credit card should not have been used.”

In a Jan. 8, 2021, interview, Holzwarth admitted to Prim that she’d spent $13,820.08 in personal transactions using the elevator’s money. “Holzwarth went on to admit she didn’t mean to do it, but also said that she knew she used” the money ”but didn’t realize how much she had done.” Holzwarth told Prim she was “busy all the time, trying to take care of her kids and the business.”

On March 19, 2021, Bauer, Schnell and bookkeeper Kristen Nehl each reviewed the records, independently coming up with improper or personal transaction totals of about $49,000.


On April 8, 2021, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Grain Warehouse Manager Cody Chambliss indicated that Geigle was the “only producer who had not been paid for their grain.” Chambliss said the PUC learned that on Feb. 27, 2020, the USDA had completed a bin measurement audit of the elevator to determine total inventory of each commodity. The USDA then found 3,365.68 bushels (amounting to $16,828.40) belonging to Eugene Geigle were missing. Holzwarth signed the document.

In the Jan. 8, 2021, interview, Holzwarth agreed it was “most definitely” the manager who is responsible for missing wheat. She said she was not aware the wheat went missing and thought the wheat should “still be there.”

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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