Woman facing arson trial takes felony plea

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Plywood covers the first-floor openings of the blackened house in Ellendale at 403 Fifth Ave. W. in February 2012. – Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Plywood covers the first-floor openings of the blackened house in Ellendale at 403 Fifth Ave. W. in February 2012. – Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Investigators believe Ellendale couple burned their home

Sara Degen-Misgen

Sara Degen-Misgen

One of two Ellendale people charged with starting their own home on fire in 2011 has taken a plea deal in a separate case and will avoid a trial.

Sara Ellen Degen-Misgen, 41, on Monday pleaded guilty to a felony charge of issuing a dishonored check, according to the Owatonna People’s Press. Charges of aiding and abetting first-degree arson and insurance fraud were dismissed.

The plea deal came the day Degen-Misgen was slated to begin a joint trial with her husband, Mark Allan Misgen, 42.

Degen-Misgen pleaded guilty to writing bad checks from one bank account to another multiple times. Forensic accounting showed the the total amount to be more than $33,000, according to the Owatonna newspaper.

Court documents allege the Misgens started their house, at 403. W. Fifth Ave. in Ellendale, on fire on Dec. 7, 2011, and then four months later reportedly submitted insurance claims for $395,000 for the damages. The home was a total loss.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Steele County Sheriff’s Office reportedly found inconsistencies in the couple’s statements regarding what had taken place the night of the fires. Authorities also discovered the couple was reportedly in the middle of financial difficulties at the time of the blaze.

Mark Misgen

Mark Misgen

According to court records, they owed almost $300,000, between their house mortgage and their two businesses, Maggio’s Pizza in Ellendale and Mystic Pizza in Lonsdale. They had a personal judgement against them for $36,000 from Produce State Bank in Albert Lea, and Misgen reportedly owed almost $8,000 in child support payments. He was also required to pay $150 each month for a restitution obligation in Dakota County in a case where authorities said he used customer credit card numbers through two Ellendale businesses to create fake credit cards.

Jury selection took place Monday and Tuesday. The trial continues today in Owatonna.