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Court of Appeals affirms dismissal of Kandiyohi County theft charges

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a Kandiyohi County District Court decision dismissing felony charges of theft by swindle and theft of services against a defendant who did work on the side and pocketed money that might otherwise have gone to his employer.

When the roof leaked after the worker fixed it, the company made good on a warranty that did not actually exist as the work had been done on the side without the company's knowledge.

The Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office had appealed the District Court decision, arguing that the court had erred when dismissing the charges for lack of probable cause.

In its ruling issued Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said the district court had not erred.

The charges had been filed in February 2017 against Jeffrey Peter Pohl, 50, of Buffalo. According to the facts of the case presented to the Court of Appeals, Pohl was working for Heritage Exteriors and Restoration Centers of Spicer in June 2015 when a cabin owner asked for an estimate for repairs. Pohl told him Heritage was too busy and short-handed, but that he could do the repair work after hours.

The cabin owner asked if the work would be warranted. Pohl said it would, but he did not specify the person or entity who would provide the warranty.

Pohl performed the work and was paid $4,500 with a check made out to "cash.'' He provided a generic receipt with "Heritage" written on top, according to the court documents.

Shortly afterward, another employee at Heritage found an invoice for materials that had been delivered to the cabin. Pohl told Heritage he obtained the materials for a friend. Pohl had paid for the materials.

In August 2016, the cabin owner contacted Heritage because the roof leaked and he wanted the company to honor the warranty. Heritage discovered it had not performed work for the cabin owner. Despite learning that Pohl had done the work on the side and pocketed the money, Heritage made the necessary repairs as if there were a warranty.

The Court of Appeals noted in its ruling that Heritage may have grounds for civil action against Pohl.

However, it determined that none of the evidence presented by the state "establishes that Pohl obtained property or services from Heritage by swindle or any other means."

The appeals court affirmed the district court's determination that the elements of the two charges did not exist.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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