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Former Hermantown School Board member sentenced in jewelry theft

A former Hermantown School Board member must pay nearly $25,000 in restitution and court fines after admitting to stealing diamonds from two rings and replacing them with fake crystals.

Stephanie Hamell pleaded guilty earlier this month in State District Court to a felony theft charge. On Monday, she appeared before 6th Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden for sentencing.

Hylden granted a stay of imposition and placed Hamell on probation for four years. She also must pay $23,450 in restitution, plus a $1,000 fine and other court fees. In addition, Hylden ordered Hamell to write a letter of apology to the victim and serve 240 hours of community service.

Hamell was charged Feb. 20 after an investigation by the Hermantown Police Department. Police said she stole more than $20,000 in jewelry and cash from a friend.

The friend told police that she asked Hamell to hold onto some cash and jewelry for her. When she began asking for it back, Hamell allegedly claimed that the items were stored in a safe that she could not open.

Hamell said she sent the safe in to be opened, but the money was not returned to her. The friend’s rings were returned, but she noticed that the diamonds were loosening and did not appear to be real. A jeweler determined that the diamonds had been switched with Swarovski crystals, which are designed to have the appearance of real diamonds.

Police said Hamell admitted during an interview to selling the diamonds to a jeweler in the Twin Cities area.

Hamell resigned her seat on the Hermantown School Board before she was formally charged. She has no prior criminal history.