WILLMAR — A New London man faces a felony charge of theft by swindle for allegedly bilking a Prinsburg couple out of $70,000 in the guise of a loan.
Erick Anders Ortenblad, 34, made his initial appearance last week in Kandiyohi County District Court. He was released on his own recognizance on the condition he not leave Minnesota and have no contact with the alleged victims.
His next court appearance will be Nov. 13.
According to court records, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office received a report early this year that a couple in Prinsburg had been swindled by Ortenblad.
The couple said the pastor of their church had introduced them to Ortenblad, who said he was a pastor of Experience Christ Church. They told authorities they felt they could trust him because other people in their community knew him.
Ortenblad visited the home of the couple several times to pray with them, with attention to the man's health problems, according to the criminal complaint. Their pastor accompanied Ortenblad to the first meeting and told authorities he had learned later about subsequent meetings. He had been surprised when he learned about the loan, the pastor said.
Ortenblad allegedly asked the couple for a $70,000 loan so he could purchase a church property in Willmar on short notice. The couple said they gave Ortenblad a $70,000 check in March 2017 and made it clear it was a loan. He allegedly told them he would repay them when his home in Texas was sold.
The couple said this year that they had not received any repayment or an explanation for the lack of payments, according to court records.
A Willmar real estate agent said he knew Ortenblad and had shown him a church building for sale in 2017. They never came close to an agreement on a price, according to the agent.
When he was interviewed by law enforcement, Ortenblad said the money was a loan for the church building. However, the day after he deposited the money in the church’s account, he transferred $55,000 to his father’s account in the same bank to repay a debt.
Ortenblad’s father was interviewed and said he knew of the loan from the couple but did not know why they had loaned him the money, according to the complaint. He said he believed some of the money had been used to repay him for a loan he had given his son and family to purchase their home in Texas.
When the sale of the Texas house fell through, Ortenblad said he was unable to repay the couple, according to court records. He said that he had owed about $2,000 to his housing association, and he claimed the association foreclosed on his home and sold it without giving him any financial compensation.
Ortenblad said the remaining $15,000 of the loan was spent on church expenses, including salaries for him and his wife. The church’s website and Facebook appear to have been deactivated.