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Man pleads to theft of ring involved in jeweler’s fraud case

WILLMAR — Thomas Scott Wright, 54, who is already in federal custody for bank robbery, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of theft for taking a diamond ring from a Willmar jewelry store in November 2011.

Wright entered the plea before District Judge Stephanie Beckman in Kandiyohi County District Court. As part of the plea agreement, Wright is requesting that his state prison sentence be served concurrently, or at the same time, as his federal prison sentence.

Sentencing was set for March 15.

According to the Minneapolis division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wright was sentenced in February to 60 months in prison for the Jan. 2, 2012, robbery of a bank in Calhoun Square in Minneapolis. In the plea agreement in the case, Wright admitted to stealing approximately $1,700 from the bank by placing a paper bag on the counter and telling the teller that he had a gun. The money was not recovered when he was arrested one day later.

The ring stolen in Willmar is also the subject of a felony insurance fraud case against Todd Patrick Paffrath, 60, of Spicer, who allegedly submitted an insurance claim greater than the ring’s value. A plea hearing is set for April 2 in that case.

According to the complaint against Wright, Paffrath reported to Willmar police on Nov. 30, 2011, that a man had come into the mall jewelry store for four straight days and asked to see the most expensive diamonds each time he visited the store. Through the investigation the man was identified as Wright, and Paffrath’s employees said Wright took a diamond ring while an employee left it with Wright in an office at the store.

A Willmar Police Department detective used the automatic pawn registration system to locate the ring at a Fridley pawn shop. Store records showed the ring had been pawned Dec. 1, 2011, and surveillance video showed the man conducting the transaction was Wright.

The detective took the ring to Paffrath, who identified it as the stolen merchandise.

Willmar police had the ring appraised by another jeweler, who found the value to be $4,610.

According to the complaint against Paffrath, he allegedly admitted twice, once on the phone to an insurance agent and in person to a state insurance fraud investigator, that the paperwork submitted in the insurance claim was not for the diamond ring that was stolen and later recovered at the pawn shop.

Paffrath returned the entire insurance claim check, for $15,528.10, when he learned the stolen ring had been recovered by police.

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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