- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Former Republican state Rep. Trent LeDoux was sentenced to 18 months in jail Monday for defrauding a bank run by a longtime friend to help fund his political activities.

Authorities said LeDoux obtained three loans from Farmers & Merchants Bank in Colby, Kansas, to buy cattle, but failed to make payments and deposited $28,000 from the loans into his campaign account in late 2011 and 2012. LeDoux pleaded guilty last May and was ordered to pay about $461,000 in restitution to the bank.

In a statement before the court he said he was “sorry for having taken up everyone’s time with this,” and apologized personally to Brent Wiedeman, the bank’s president, who approved the loans and testified at the hearing in favor of a stiffer punishment for LeDoux.

Wiedeman said after the hearing that he and LeDoux first met when both were in high school in 1990 and over the years became “very good friends” as classmates and fraternity brothers at Kansas State University.

In testimony before the court, Wiedeman said he vouched for LeDoux before the bank’s board and loan committee to help LeDoux get loans despite his history of late payments. Wiedeman said when he pressed LeDoux after several missed payments on the new loans, LeDoux drove him around his neighborhood, showing him other people’s cattle that he claimed he had bought with the loans.

Wiedeman said cattle would have made for a profitable investment for LeDoux, but, “Instead, he chose to blatantly lie to my face about the use of the funds and wasted the money on his personal pleasures.”

Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled that the sentence would begin in 90 days due to an imminent surgery scheduled by LeDoux, who said after the hearing that he suffers from acute pancreatitis and leukemia and will have his spleen and pancreas surgically removed Wednesday.

LeDoux said he holds no ill feelings toward Wiedeman, although he disputed some parts of Wiedeman’s account.

It will take the bank years to recover its losses from the fraud, which equaled about half of its earnings in 2012, Wiedeman said.

“It’s very hurtful - not just the bad bank loan. It’s personal,” he said.

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