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Minnesota con man allegedly stings investors for $20 million

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Another view of Walker’s D.C. trip — and of state’s job outlook; disputed prison stats; presidential polls and finance; and more.
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Minnesota con man allegedly stings investors for $20M

The story of the day is a Strib piece by Dan Browning, Paul McEnroe and Jennifer Bjorhus on — yet another — alleged con artist living astonishingly high on the hog: “A federal indictment unsealed Thursday in Minneapolis alleged Michael Joseph Krzyzaniak, also known as Michael Joseph Crosby, has been soliciting investors since 2003 for projects that included a golf resort in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., and a NASCAR-style racetrack in Elko, Minn. Investors described Krzyzaniak, whom they knew as Crosby, as a larger-than-life personality who traveled in chartered jets, drove a $130,000 Mercedes and relaxed at a California beach house he rented. He didn’t tell investors about his previous mail fraud conviction, or that his business projects were not viable because of environmental issues, the lack of regulatory approvals or other reasons, the government alleged. To lure investors, the government says, Krzyzaniak promised substantial returns and falsely claimed to have celebrity endorsements that would ensure the projects’ success. He allegedly spent some of the money he raised to keep projects afloat or to make ‘lulling’ payments to investors. But the indictment says he spent more than $6.1 million of investor funds on himself.” And that is where the story starts. Good stuff.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s designated conservative columnist, Patrick McIlheran, on its “Right On” blog, looks at Gov. Scott Walker’s treatment in D.C. Thursday and says: “The other supposed admission was from left-wing star troll Dennis Kucinich, who demanded to know just how much the state would save by giving union members an annual vote on whether they’d go on being represented by a union. None, Walker said, whereafter Kucinich said the whole ‘attack on collective bargaining rights’ was bogus. Bogus: Just the word. As amply explained, unless Walker limited the ability of unions to roll local school boards and city councils on benefits and work rules, schools and cities would never manage to cut labor costs enough to deal with the necessary reductions in state aid. Collective bargaining raises government’s cost, so collective bargaining very much is a solvency issue. But the union votes? No, doesn’t save a dime. For the public, that is. If union members have to pay more for their benefits, then simple justice suggests they get a vote on whether they’ll have to go on paying costly forced dues.”

Before you go and get all excited and happy about those upticks in Minnesota’s employment picture, you might want to read Stribber Eric Wieffering’s blog today: “The construction sector remains in shambles, with about 50,000 fewer people working in that sector than at the housing bubble peak. Will those jobs ever come back? After housing, the sector with the biggest decline has been government, with 1,900 jobs lost in the past year. I expect even more job losses in that sector in the coming months.”

The wolf that calmly strolled across the lawn of our cabin didn’t look too endangered. A plan is afloat to remove the gray wolf from endangered lists completely. Dennis Lien of the PiPress says: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is trying once again to remove gray wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin from the threatened and endangered species lists, enabling those states to launch their own wolf-management plans. Several earlier proposals have been stalled by challenges from environmental groups. Hoping for a better result this time, the federal agency has tweaked its proposal to address earlier procedural concerns identified by courts. It also has addressed emerging taxonomic information that two species of wolves coexist in the Great Lakes region. After a public comment period, the agency will review feedback and publish a final decision later this year that almost certainly will receive another court challenge.”

The attitude is, I guess, “It just ain’t so.” That’s the word from the Minnesota Department of Corrections via Madeleine Baran of MPR: “The state’s Department of Corrections disputed a report this week showing Minnesota has the highest ex-prisoner recidivism rate in the nation. The report from the Pew Center on the States found Minnesota sent 61.2 percent of offenders released in 2004 back to prison within the next three years. The rate is the highest of the 41 states that provided data to the Pew Center. It’s also about 18 percent higher than the national average. … Grant Duwe, the director of research for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said the numbers are inaccurate because they combine two types of data: offenders sent back to prison for new crimes and those sent back for technical violations of the terms of their release. For example, it’s possible for an offender to be released from prison and go back for another crime. That same offender might, during the second release, violate the terms of parole, all within three years. ‘Within three years, some offenders are released from prison, commit a new crime, go back to prison, are released, and then violate the terms of that release,’ Duwe said. He said the Pew study counts those offenders twice.” Is that a difference without a distinction?

Judging by the qualifying quotes in Dave Orrick’s PiPress story about Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s day at the Capitol schmoozing legislators, I’m not sure if there’s anything to believe here: “Acknowledging the clock is ticking, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Thursday that he’s ‘very optimistic’ a deal can be struck on a site for a new stadium and the Legislature will approve a construction plan before it adjourns next month. ‘We’re working very hard to get a site and a local partner, and we’re very optimistic that it’ll get done this year,’ he told reporters after private meetings with what an aide tallied as ‘dozens’ of lawmakers. The aide clarified that by ‘this year’ he meant the end of the 2011 legislative session, scheduled to adjourn May 23. Wilf indicated there’s negotiating room in determining how much the Vikings should pay to build what has been proposed to be a heavily tax-subsidized stadium. He said the team was committed to making a ‘significant’ contribution and said the goal was to find ‘an equitable way’ to fund such a project. He refused to talk specific amounts.” That is probably “wise,” on Wilf’s part.

What? Only five? MPR’s Rupa Chenoy files a story on U.S. Attorney Todd Jones filing charges against five characters for health care fraud: “U.S. Attorney spokesperson Jeanne Cooney said two of the five are accused of using personal care assistants to help file false claims. Charged are Samuel Akoto Danso, 41, of Woodbury, and Harry Kwabena Ossei, 51, of Oakdale. ‘What they allegedly did was provide payments to personal care assistants as well as Medicare recipients in exchange for those people’s participation in a phony personal care assistant scheme,’ Cooney said. The two also are charged with identity theft.”

T-Paw has raised $160K since announcing his exploratory committee that might meaning he’s running for president, but not really, no matter what CNN says until he really announces. Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico reports: “In the two weeks after creating his presidential exploratory committee last month, Tim Pawlenty raised $160,000, a majority of which came from a few dozen donors who maxed out to the former Minnesota governor’s nascent bid. The relatively modest haul, disclosed in a report filed midday Friday with the Federal Election Commission, in some ways marks the official start of the 2012 presidential money race, in which prospective Republican candidates like Pawlenty are going to be under enormous pressure to raise cash to compete with the $1 billion President Barack Obama’s allies are hoping to raise for his reelection. While Pawlenty, who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, has attracted positive attention from handicappers, fundraising is considered a relative weakness, which he had been working to remedy by raising money into a network of so-called leadership PACs that cannot be used to fund his campaign.”

Eerier news is that T-Paw’s main competition for the GOP nomination is … Donald Trump. The poll-of-the-day has Trump moving out to a 9 percentage-point lead over the rest of the, uh, field. Writes the Mediaite blog, “According to a new poll released Friday morning b y Public Policy Polling, Celebrity Apprentice host and undeclared candidate for president Donald Trump now leads his nearest GOP primary opponent by nine percentage points. The man that Lawrence O’Donnell calls “NBC’s Charlie Sheen” is showing the political world that a Birther-fueled publicity tour + a weak Republican field equals “Winning!” Trump polled at 26% in the survey, trailed by Mike Huckabee with 17%, and recently-announced mainstream darling Mitt Romney with 15%. In a few short weeks, Trump has managed to completely eclipse former media fulcrum Sarah Palin, who is polling at just 8%, still better than Minnesotans Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, who got 4% each.”