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Grove City, Minn., man sentenced in swindle for faking aluminum can transactions

Gregory Donald Schake

WILLMAR -- A 32-year-old Grove City man was sentenced Wednesday to 120 days in jail and ordered to pay back the $47,184 he swindled from the Kandiyohi County Recycling Center.

Gregory Donald Schake had been charged with four felony counts of theft by swindle for faking aluminum can transactions at the recycling center where he worked, and pocketing the money.

Schake pleaded guilty last month to one charge and the other three felonies were dismissed.

As part of the sentence handed down by Judge Michael Thompson, Schake will serve 120 days in the Kandiyohi County Jail in 30-day increments that could stretch out through June of 2013. In order for the jail time to be considered for deferment, Schake must be up to date with restitution payments.

The payments include $10,000 to West Central Industries, with the balance going to West Bend Mutual Insurance Company.

Schake was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, was placed on supervised probation for 10 years and he must write a letter of apology.

If he successfully completes the conditions of probation, the felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor through a stay of imposition.

According to the complaint, Schake allegedly manipulated the scale used to weigh aluminum cans at the recycling center, located in Willmar, and then paid himself the proceeds of the falsified transactions.

The fraud took place between October 2009 and June 2011 and involved 391 false transactions and payments for 87,600 pounds of aluminum cans.

It was discovered after Kandiyohi County Environmental Services Director Jeff Bredberg found a discrepancy in the weight of aluminum cans the recycling center purchased from the public and the weight of the cans that were transported via semi-trailer and sold to recyclers in the Twin Cities.

In some cases the difference was about 20 percent, with the weight on a single trailer coming up short by 1,500 to 2,000 pounds.

While trying to determine the source of the shortage, county officials checked the accuracy of the scales, used independent scales to verify the weights and had followed the trailer to ensure that no cans were disappearing in transit.

In March, investigators used a series of surveillance devices, including zip-ties on the trailers, to determine if someone was taking cans from the trailer. No activity was observed, but the trailer still came up short, 1,898 pounds less than expected.

Investigators and staff members of the scale company then used computer data from the center's weighing system and surveillance footage to determine that Schake was manipulating the scale and pushing the buttons to simulate a transaction for cans, then paying himself for the transaction from the cash register.

The daily journals of signatures from customers show illegible signatures for all of the suspect transactions. As a supervisor, Schake was alone at the facility on Saturdays.

Schake was interviewed in June and, when shown the video surveillance footage, allegedly admitted to the false transactions and said that no one else was involved. He allegedly said the money was going to pay rent and bills and that he could not stop himself from making the false transactions.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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