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Scammers, swindlers and a sign of the apocalypse?

PLUS: A long farewell for Tom Barnard, TVs sprouting at Target Field, and a visit from Karl Rove.

The story of the latest alleged scam artist working the over-extended or unemployed seems to have caught the attention of everyone in town. Minnesota AG Lori Swanson filed suit against the guy Tuesday. The Strib’s Suzanne Ziegler has the essential story of one Barry Trimble, “CEO” of something called the Arthur Group. (By now, shouldn’t we all be wary of any C-O-anything at any “Group”?) Ziegler describes the attorney general’s charges this way: “The company ‘baited’ job seekers to come to its office for job interviews by posting ads on websites such as CareerBuilder or by pulling their résumés off Internet job boards. [The attorney general] says the company often failed to produce a single job interview or lead, even though clients paid as much as $4,500 in fees.” She finds one ex-employee who recalls Trimble once telling him, “I have money because of all the people I’ve screwed.” Classy.

If the collection of alleged CEO-swindlers continues building as it has, authorities may consider placing a bid for Duluth’s downtown jail, currently for sale by ReMax — 32,500 sq. ft for only $60,000. Here’s the AP story.

On the subject of scams, something about this next story has me wondering how many disciples of Members Only couture are still out there. It seems the Eagan cops busted three Italian nationals for selling fake Italian leather jackets to local chumps. How obvious were the fakes? The PiPress’s Frederick Melo writes, “Police believe the trio were selling jackets made of cotton, rayon and a vinyl polymer that were relabeled to mimic the appearance of expensive Italian leather.” “Relabeled”? So if I slap a Miuccia Prada label on a cammo snowmobile suit from Fleet Farm, I’ll find someone to buy it for $1,500?

And while we’re at it … Martin Moylan at MPR has a local story on the pressure banks are feeling to (finally) rein in those $30 or $35 overdraft fees, especially when they’re offering their customers the “courtesy” of covering a $4 latte via debit card. Moylan’s story explains the basics, but fans of corporate PR-speak will enjoy comments from bank mouthpieces. Like this one from Trent Spurgeon at U.S. Bank, ” ‘They can ask us to not pay for that cup of coffee,’ said Spurgeon, who oversees consumer products at U.S. Bank. ‘Or, in the case of checks, if they don’t want the checks to be paid, we can reject them.’ ” Gosh, that’s sweet of the big bank. But, you know, I’d buy a lot of $4 coffees if I knew I was making a 900 percent “fee” on the “courtesy.”

Then there’s this one from Jason Korstange at TCF. “We’re giving [customers] a break, it’s a service that we offer … Ninety-five percent of the time, they will say they were happy that happened. They weren’t embarrassed; they were able to get their purchase completed. Unfortunately, we had to charge them a fee.” Yes, that “break” was so “unfortunate.”

There’s a theme here somewhere … while former President George W. Bush lies low in Dallas, his brain is on tour in Minnesota this week. Karl Rove, a man who knows a thing or two about gaming the system, will speak at both Concordia College in Moorhead and St. Olaf in Northfield, at the invitation of campus conservatives. MPR has a brief story, with no mention of the size of his fee or who exactly covered it.

The next 3 percent increase in Hennepin County property taxes
will come thanks to the twin hammers of a health insurance system that has the uninsured flooding emergency rooms and a politically ambitious governor who can’t imagine campaigning for president having himself raised any tax for any reason … other than as fees, of course. The Strib’s Laurie Blake quotes Commissioner Gail Dorfman saying, “The tax increase is required ‘just because the governor cut the legs out’ from under thousands of low-income adults who depended on General Medical Assistance.” She also quotes County Board Chairman Mike Opat saying, “The county pays $43 million a year to provide health care for people who are poor and uninsured. The 3 percent tax increase proposed in the budget would bring in only $18 million toward that problem.”

For some, Tom Barnard, KQRS’s stupefyingly popular morning jock, is himself a sign of the apocalypse. But now, if we can take Tommy B at his word, he will depart the public stage at the very moment of the actual apocalypse, December 21, 2012 … the notorious last date on the Mayan calendar and the latest Y2K-style hysteria for the doomsday crowd. Amy Carlson Gustafson files a short piece for the PiPress on Barnard’s announcement Tuesday, an announcement that sounds a bit like the flag for a 39-month victory lap.

The Strib’s Neal Justin gets a quote from Barnard complaining about the “proactive … corporate climate”. The what?

Finance and Commerce’s Bob Geiger reports that Best Buy will install 625 TV monitors in Target Field as part of yet another deal with the Twins. I mean, you wouldn’t want to look directly at all that natural grass, would you?

After splitting a double-header with Detroit Tuesday, the Twinks are where they started the day, two games back … but past Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander, who they came close to figuring out. The other news, though, was their signing of a Dominican shortstop for a hefty $3.15 million, the most they’ve ever paid for an “international” prospect. Teams, though, are still trying to figure out how old the kid actually is.

With swindlers of all stripes afoot in the land
, a wildly dysfunctional health insurance system piling costs on taxpayers, politicians skipping out on basic responsibilities and bankers making 900 percent profit on “courtesies” to their customers, it’s good to see the new, out-of-bankruptcy and bolder-than-ever Star Tribune editorial page is diving head first into the toughest issues of our time and provoking thoughtful, reasoned debate … like, for example,this morning’s piece bravely complimenting Macalester for putting up … an energy-efficient building. With free verbiage like, “LEED Platinum certification means that Markim Hall, home of Macalester’s Institute for Global Citizenship, ranks among the best of the best new buildings in the country …,” the Strib obviously saved Mac a chunk of dough it might otherwise have spent on publicists.