A Gillette man has pleaded guilty to taking more than $30,000 from the Boy Scouts while he was a scoutmaster and more than $120,000 from an elderly woman for whom he had worked and befriended.
Sentencing for Jason Ray Barnum, 42, will be March 5 on three counts of theft for taking $31,025 from the Boy Scouts and one count of obtaining goods by false pretenses for taking $122,573 from an elderly woman who had hired him to do repair work at her house.
Prosecutors will recommend an imposed three- to five-year prison sentence on each of the theft counts, to be served concurrently, and a suspended five- to 10-year sentence for the fraud and then 10 years of supervised probation.
As part of a plea agreement, he must pay $10,000 before sentencing to the woman, and he remains out on bond so that he can work to earn money to pay that restitution, according to court documents.
$31,025 missing from Scouts
Barnum took money from fundraising activities and donations to the Scouts, spending some of it on trips to chase a woman in Iowa who he would later marry, according to court documents.
The thefts started when a local troop’s treasurer went on vacation in March 2018, and she left Barnum with the troop bank ledger, checkbook and debit card in case he needed to make purchases while she was away. He was the scoutmaster at the time.
He never returned the items despite numerous requests to do so, court documents said. Instead, he allegedly used the bank information to steal money Boy Scouts had earned from popcorn sales, donations and fundraising events.
He also allegedly stole money Cub Scouts had given him from donations and popcorn sales despite promising to deposit it in the troop’s account to pay the Boy Scouts of America, which was owed some of the money. The Boy Scouts of America never received money from the Gillette troops, and some community members who ordered popcorn from Scouts never received it.
The woman he married from Iowa, from whom he is now estranged, reported that Barnum always had money even though he had been unemployed for a few years. When she asked him where he earned the money, he said he “found a way,” according to court documents.
The Boy Scouts fired Barnum in November 2018 after learning he had lied on his application by not disclosing his criminal record and by not revealing that he was on probation for theft by deception in South Dakota.
Barnum confessed to his sister and a friend and told police that he used the money to pay his bills, according to court documents.
“I made some bad choices,” he said.
Each of the theft counts is for money allegedly taken from a different group — a local Boy Scout troop, a local Cub Scout troop and the Boy Scouts of America.
Defrauding an elderly woman
During the Gillette Police Department’s investigation of the alleged thefts, investigators discovered Barnum also had conned a 76-year-old Gillette woman out of $122,573 between July 2017 and May 2018.
In May 2017, the elderly woman hired Barnum to complete several projects around her home. Two months later, he asked to borrow $4,500 to buy a truck, promising to pay it back by October 2017 with an inheritance he was about to receive from his recently deceased aunt.
Over the following 10 months, he requested and received money from the woman on 46 occasions, always promising to pay it back with his forthcoming inheritance, which didn’t exist, according to court documents.
By spring 2018, Barnum’s requests had drained the woman’s bank account, but when he told her he needed to pay South Dakota excise taxes or he would be arrested, she placed the $2,500 balance on her credit card. Barnum then deposited the $2,500 in one of the Boy Scout troop accounts from which he later stole, according to court documents.
When he failed to pay by the promised date, Barnum told the woman that his inheritance had been delayed for 90 days because his relative had contested the will. When the 90 days passed, he claimed a judge had placed a 30-day hold on the will.
He eventually told the woman that he was at a hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota, because his daughter had contracted West Nile virus and that the check was in his Gillette mailbox, which he couldn’t access at that time, an affidavit says.
At the end of December, he reported he was leaving the hospital and would pick up the inheritance check as soon as he returned home, but the woman never heard from Barnum again.
“I misled (her),” her said as he pleaded guilty to the charge. “I told (her) I was getting an inheritance that didn’t exist and I’d be able to repay her. And she kept giving me money based off of that and there was no inheritance that existed from a deceased aunt.”