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Former State Fair exec headed to trial

Accused of stealing state fair funds.
Former Nebraska State Fair Financial Director Patrick Kopke, shown on the left,  is charged...
Former Nebraska State Fair Financial Director Patrick Kopke, shown on the left, is charged with felony theft.(KSNB)
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 10:36 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The former Financial Director for the Nebraska State Fair is headed to trial to defend himself against charges that he stole money from the fair.

Patrick Kopke is charged with three counts of felony theft in Hall County. The charges are for theft of movable property of value greater than $5,000. Each charge could lead to 20 years in prison each with potential reparation payments for the stolen goods.

On Monday, Kopke waived an evidence hearing in Hall County Court. The judge transferred the case to Hall County District Court. A district court arraignment hearing is scheduled Nov. 17 at which Kopke is expected to enter a formal plea against the charges facing him.

The charges against Kopke came after a four month investigation by the state auditor.

In July, the auditor released a report to the state fair board which also pointed out two checks totaling almost $150,000 which were paid to a private business owned by Kopke.

In the letter to the fair board, the auditor said that RKBB received one check written in July 2019 for $97,783.64 and another written in September 2019 for $51,631.96. The APA said RKBB used the money to buy a pick-up truck, an ATV, and a trailer and for a processing fee related to the purchase of farm land in Howard County. The ATV and trailer were sold in 2020 after Kopke had resigned his State Fair position in late 2019.The APA also said the pick-up had been sold or traded.

Kopke resigned in November 2019, after warning that the State Fair would go bankrupt within a year.

The auditor also questioned credit card transactions made by Kopke between November 2018 and November 2019 totaling $46,665.48.

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