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David Hergert

David Hergert

Former University of Nebraska Regent David Hergert admitted in court Thursday to misstating his assets in loan documents during his term representing western Nebraska.

"Are you guilty?" U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf asked Hergert at the noon-hour hearing in a Lincoln courtroom.

Yes, said Hergert, who won election in November 2004 and soon after faced allegations he had broken campaign finance laws.

He pleaded guilty to bank fraud as part of an agreement that calls for five years of probation and six months house arrest when he is sentenced in June.

Hergert, 71, sat flanked by attorneys and admitted he misstated the assets, including grain inventories, of Hergert Milling Inc. in monthly reporting documents submitted as terms of a loan with the First National Bank of Omaha.

Kopf asked him what it was about the base borrowing certificates that was false.

"We had a terrible mess, but part of it was not correct," said Hergert of Mitchell.

In the indictment, in which he originally faced 18 charges, the government alleged that from January 2000 to December 2006 he inflated the assets of Hergert Milling Inc. in order to keep a $3 million revolving loan.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Russell said in exchange for Hergert's guilty plea to one charge, the rest would be dismissed and he wouldn't be prosecuted in Nebraska for any other dealings associated with the Omaha bank.

He said the parties also agreed Kopf should sentence Hergert to five years of probation with six months of home confinement, a $75,000 fine and restitution.

Russell said Hergert has reached a debt settlement agreement with the bank.

Neither he nor Hergert's attorney, Steven Achelpohl, disclosed the details of the settlement, but Achelpohl said Hergert was "seriously committed to taking care of that restitution."

He is set to be sentenced June 9.

The case is just the most recent in a string of legal troubles for Hergert, who in 2006 was suspended as a regent after being impeached by the Legislature for breaking campaign finance laws.

Later that year, he was removed from office after he was convicted by the state Supreme Court of manipulating campaign-finance laws, then lying to cover it up.

In 2007, Hergert gave up his state grain warehouse license after officials discovered his warehouses were missing 58,000 bushels of corn that was supposed to have been stored for farmers. Regulators shut down the warehouses and ordered him to pay farmers for the missing grain.

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Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

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Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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