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Willmar, Minn., man facing charges for drug possession held on $100K bail

WILLMAR — Todd Keith Espelien, 49, of Willmar, made his first appearance Tuesday on a  third-degree drug possession charge for possessing 4.2 grams of methamphetamine found in a vehicle he also allegedly used in multiple gas drive-off thefts in Willmar.

Unconditional bail was set at $100,000 in Kandiyohi County District Court. Espelien’s next hearing, along with a revocation hearing in a prior drug possession case, is Dec. 26.

According to the drug charge complaint, a State Patrol trooper arrested Espelien on Nov. 5 during a traffic stop for outstanding warrants, for auto theft and for child support violations. While the trooper was taking inventory of the vehicle, a total of 4.2 grams of meth was located, along with a digital scale, drug paraphernalia and $600 in cash.

Espelien claimed the owner of the car let him use the vehicle whenever he wanted and that he was on his way to buy marijuana from a man in Hawick when he was stopped.

Espelien also faces two misdemeanor theft charges for gas drive-off thefts at two Willmar gas stations on Oct. 24 and Nov. 3. In both cases, the clerks reported that a man filled a black vehicle, likely a Chevy Malibu, with gas and then didn’t properly hang up the nozzle, which alerts the clerk that the customer is finished pumping gas.

The man then drove off without paying for the fuel. In both cases, the stolen gas was approximately $47 in value.

Willmar police posted images from the gas station surveillance systems on Facebook. Information from citizens and the police investigation led to Espelien and the 2013 Chevy Malibu, which had been borrowed from a Belgrade woman.

The woman had reported the vehicle stolen after Espelien did not return it to her.

 When he was arrested, Espelien denied involvement in the gas drive-off thefts. He later allegedly admitted to CEE-VI Drug Task Force agents that he had committed four or five gas thefts in Willmar, for a total of about $150 in gas, with the vehicle.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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