A federal judge called trucking company owner George Wintz Jr. “a working fool” before sentencing him to 3 1/2 years in prison for embezzlement and bank fraud in embezzlement schemes Wintz used to keep his trucking, warehousing and distribution business afloat.

Wintz, 73, of Minneapolis, is owner and president of Triangle Warehouse, which operates more than 1,000 pieces of equipment, including single and tandem axle tractors, as well as dry vans and flatbed trailers. The company offers cartage service in the seven county metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as interstate and intrastate fleet services.

After a three-week trial, jurors found Wintz guilty of two counts of bank fraud for writing batches of checks among various business accounts at Pinehurst Bank of St. Paul and Northstar Bank, inflating the account balances, and one count of embezzlement for taking money from his employees' retirement plan.

Andrew Luger, Wintz’s attorney, said the trucking company owner recognizes he made terrible mistakes in check kiting schemes, but he committed the acts to keep his companies going and his employees working. "He didn't do it for personal gain," Luger said in a Star Tribunereport. Luger had argued for an alternative sentence that would have allowed Wintz to avoid prison and continue growing his business, which is thriving again.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery determined that sentencing guidelines could bring nearly eight years in prison, but imposed the shorter sentence because of Wintz's age and in recognition of his lifetime of industriousness in running legitimate businesses, the Star Tribune reported.

"I think you're kind of a working fool," Montgomery said.

John Anthony Markert, former president of Pinehurst Bank, was found guilty of five counts of misapplying funds for his role in approving loans to cover Wintz's check-kiting. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Longtime Triangle Warehouse executive Nancy Cook will assume the leadership of the company upon Wintz's departure. "We are confident that our customers will continue to trust us to handle their logistics business," the company said.