Nonprofit thefts in Southern Minnesota outlined in Mankato paper

Using information gathered by the Washington Post, Josh Moniz of the Mankato Free Press took a look at the amount of money stolen or lost from Southern Minnesota nonprofits since 2009. Nonprofits are required to report losses from fraud, theft or mismanagement if the losses are more than $250,000 or 5 percent of their annual gross receipts. The Washington Post pulled together the information into a searchable database. Moniz was able to drill down to Southern Minnesota and found reports of $175,000 missing. He is quick to note that the amount lost is dwarfed by the amount raised, and that reporting the losses is usually haphazard and incomplete.

The one exception was the New Ulm theft of more than $91,000 from the Brown County Agricultural Society, which runs the Brown County Free Fair. The Ag Society sought legal action and listed the treasurer as the source of the theft. Board president Lucy Gluth said they were intentionally open in order to rebuild the public’s faith in the organization. New Ulm’s other incident involved the loss of $19,358 from the New Ulm Hockey Association after a couple claimed they could organize a show featuring comedian Louie Anderson. Southern Minnesota’s other incidents were not publicly reported prior to this story. The River Bend Nature Center in Faribault reported losing $23,900 in its report without providing context, and the Rochester Juvenile Hockey Association only stated a volunteer had stolen without giving a total. Rochester’s minimum loss to meet reporting standards would have to be $33,251. The Fairmont Youth Hockey Association lost a minimum of $9,479.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, a thief used a rock with painted hearts and the name “Christen” in pink letters written on it to break the window of the Cornerstone State Bank in Cloquet shortly before 6 a.m. Tuesday and stole an undisclosed amount of cash, according to Cloquet police. Police have surveillance video that shows the suspect and are asking anyone who recognizes the suspect or rock to contact them at (218) 879-1247.

A changing economy and aging population is creating a lot of empty storefronts in the Upper Minnesota River Valley, writes Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune in Willmar. In Madison, a group called Madison Investment Properties has bought the town’s auto dealership and persuaded another dealer to take over the business, and they have bought the town bowling alley with plans to convert it to retail businesses and offices. Although property laws, tax issues and individual financial situations make it complicated for communities to deal with vacant buildings, Dawn Hegland, director of the Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission, put it succinctly: “Nobody wants to drive down Main Street and look in a big plate glass window into a vacant building and it looks like junk.’’ Montevideo has seen success by reinvesting in its downtown with a nearly $3 million upgrade in 2000. It has seen entrepreneurs develop new uses for historic structures, such as the Hollywood Theater. Former retail space — such as a drugstore and gift store — became office space and the headquarters for a local company.

The New Ulm Journal is reporting that the body found Saturday in the Minnesota River is that of a kayaker from Watertown, S.D., who has been missing since June 22. Steven P. Fritze of Watertown, S.D., a sixth-grade teacher at St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, has been missing on the river after his kayak overturned in rough water. His two companions made it to shore, but Fritze didn’t. Positive identification is pending autopsy results from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner.

An anaerobic biodigester may be in operation in Rice County by next year, reports Cristeta Boarini of the Faribault Daily News. A biodigester takes methane from organic waste such as food processing byproducts and used livestock bedding, and compresses the methane into natural gas, which can be used as an alternative source to diesel fuel. The company behind the project says it is working out deals with MOM Brands, Dick’s Sanitation and Faribault Foods to participate.

Two of Gloria Fritz’s prized American Saddlebred mares were found dead this weekend on a farm in Scandia, apparently shot and killed, writes Elizabeth Mohn of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Farm owner William St. Sauver Jr., 30, was arrested but has not been charged. Fritz said she was told by St. Sauver the horses had been shot by deer hunters, but Fritz was immediately suspicious. “I thought to myself, ‘Nobody in their right mind would shoot an animal that close to a house.’ For lots of reasons. And two of them. One maybe by accident, but two? That was intentional,” Fritz said Monday during an interview with a Washington County sheriff’s deputy. “You don’t put down two horses by accident.” Fritz has owned the registered Saddlebreds since birth. They were 20 and 17 years old.  “I used to have a breeding farm. This is the last of my herd,” Fritz said, in tears. “And this is how it had to end? With two dead horses with bullets in them?”

The Todd County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case of the exploding mailbox, reports the St. Cloud Times. Shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday, deputies were notified that a mailbox had been damaged in Stowe Prairie Township sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning. Authorities believe a homemade explosive device was used.

Cash photo by REUTERS/Lee Jae Won.

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