Two sentenced in SunCatcher Academy theft

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The latest on court proceedings for two former employees of the SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy accused of theft.

Dec. 7

Two former employees of the SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy who admitted to stealing more than $14,000 from the local nonprofit faced sentencing Thursday in Custer County.

Seventh Circuit Court Judge Jeff Davis sentenced Tiffany Thovson and Jerry Smedshammer to 60 days in jail - 50 of which were suspended - 3 years’ probation, and the repayment of $14,641 to the organization.

The two admitted to engaging in a series of lies and deceptions, including false claims that horses were sick, the creation of fake email addresses, and the production of fake veterinarian bills. The deceptions all occurred in 2014.

While Thovson’s and Smedshammer’s actions resulted in the loss of an entire year of services at SunCatcher’s Rapid City location in addition to 3 years of litigation, SunCatcher Board President Tim Pederson said the organization is pleased with the outcome and is ready to move on.

“Our clients are wonderful, and our volunteers are wonderful. We have a bright, bright future,” he said.

Thovson and Smedshammer were also ordered to pay various court costs and will be subject to warrantless search and seizure for the duration of their probations.


July 1

A Pringle woman accused of theft by deception and forgery was arraigned in Custer County Circuit Court Thursday. Tiffany Thovson, of Pringle, is accused of stealing $14,500 from SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy back in 2014. She has entered a plea of not guilty.

SunCatcher Academy was forced to close its doors for a year and half as a result of the theft.

"The facts as they come out, I think are going to show, that is goes so much deeper than the theft of money. Because along with that, we were not able to operate our sessions here, so we had riders that were expecting to have sessions that didn’t happen for a year and half", said Tim Pederson, President of SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy.

On top of the theft, Thovson imposed a quarantine on board members of the Riding Academy, saying they were ill.

“The place was under a quarantine, which we found later was not a quarantine. And as part of the terms of the quarantine, members of the board were not allowed to come out here,” Pederson said.

As a result of the closure and quarantine, Pederson explained that their 40-acre property leased for the Casey Family that owns Bear Country was in serious need of repair. During the recovery, the Academy had to ensure that their herd was in good health and well fed due their neglect during the closure.

The Academy reopened in 2015 and currently has 49 active riders on the roster. Despite the setback, SunCatcher Academy says it's now fully recovered from the loss.

Thovson has pleaded not guilty to all charges and could face a maximum sentence of 18 years if convicted. Her next court appearance is scheduled for July 26 at 9 a.m.

Below are Thovson's charges:

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