Christopher Fichtner, 33, of North Platte, was sentenced in late January to just 30 days jail and 18 months probation for attempted second-degree forgery.
Fichtner was convicted Nov. 5 of attempted forgery after he pled guilty to writing a bad check in June and driving away with three pickups from a North Platte dealership.
District Judge Richard Birch put strict conditions on the probation.
He ordered Fichtner to undergo psychotherapy and take all medications that are prescribed.
Fichtner will also have to complete a personal financial course at the college and pay restitution to the victims.
Fichtner wrote a check for the pickups at Janssen Motors on June 26. After he left, the dealer found that not only was there insufficient funds in the account to cover the check, but Fichtner’s name was not even listed on the account.
Fichtner was originally charged with felony theft by deception and second-degree forgery. In a plea agreement the charge was dropped to attempted forgery. He served just four days in jail before he paid bond.
After the Bulletin published reports of the pickup thefts, four people from three states called to say they’d also been financially victimized by Fichtner.
The George Fowler family of Miles City, Mont. said Fichtner became romantically involved with a daughter in mid-2010, and for seven months he went on a spending spree, buying horses, bulls, vehicles and farm equipment without the money while the family picked up the tab and made apologies.
In May 2010, Fichter allegedly talked the girl into buying seven horses at a sale in Bowman, N.D., with Fichtner’s promise that money would be put into her account. No money was ever transferred, and the family ranch had to cover the check.
“We had never in our lives dealt with someone like him,” Jeremy Fowler said. “Where we were brought up and raised here in Montana, we take people at their word and that is that.”
Fowler said Fichtner later bought three tractors, two balers, a swather and a bale mover from two separate John Deere dealerships, claiming he was with Fichtner Land and Cattle of McCook, which had a Farmplan (credit) account, so the dealerships thought he would come up with the money. Nothing was ever paid to them, Jeremy said, so the family ended up paying money to both dealerships to cover their time and trouble.
Fowler said Fichtner’s scams continued until November.
A caller from Nebraska who asked to remain anonymous told the Bulletin that Fichtner contacted her during the summer about buying some items she had for sale, but when the time came to seal the deal, he said he couldn’t come up with the money. She said he spun a tale about the drought and valuable hay he’d had that burned in a fire, playing on her sympathies.
She contacted the Bulletin when she was in the process of checking for a report of the fire that Fichtner described. She found none.
“It was like he wanted me to offer to give him a lot of money,” the woman told the Bulletin. “It makes me sick to think about.”
A Utah woman, Mindy Trussell, told the Bulletin that Fichtner repeatedly tried to obtain bank account information.
She first met Fichtner on facebook and later in person. She said he told her he was wealthy and offered to wire money straight to her account if she would give him the numbers.
She didn’t, in part because her father was suspicious of him.
“He is pretty good at trying to scam people,” Trussell said. “He is a con artist, out to take from anyone he can. I think he is mental - crazy.”
Trussell said Fichtner later tried to contact her through facebook, using the last name O’Dea.
This report was first published in the Bulletin's Jan. 28 print edition. We have received numerous requests from a wide area for this information. -Editor.