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Man pleads guilty to Pope County felony for posing as building contractor

GLENWOOD — Authorities say a Minot, North Dakota, man posed as a building contractor in July 2014, cashing his down payment checks of nearly $23,000 and disappearing without completing work for a pair of Gilchrist Township residents.

Brandon James Basinger, 30, was charged in February 2015 in Pope County District Court with two felony counts of theft by swindle.

The case had been on hold for a year and a half after Basinger failed to appear at a May 2015 hearing. A warrant issued for his arrest then was returned in September, while he was incarcerated for separate charges in North Dakota.

He appeared in court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing, and pleaded guilty to one count of theft by swindle, a felony.

A sentencing hearing has not been set but is expected to be scheduled within a month, after a presentence investigation is completed, according to Assistant Pope County Attorney Troy Nelson.

According to the criminal complaint on the charges, a pair of neighbors had hired Basinger to build structures on their Gilchrist Township properties, north of Sunburg. Basinger reportedly wanted one-third of the payment up front.

One neighbor paid Basinger $8,342.93; the other paid $15,931.19.

Basinger did not have a contractor's license in Minnesota, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly spoke in detail with the neighbors about the Perka buildings he planned to build on their properties.

But when it came time for the building to be constructed on one property, Basinger allegedly did not show up.

The property owner called the building manufacturer, Perka. The manufacturing company said Basinger had not purchased anything from it. It believed Basinger was scamming people.

Basinger told the property owner that the building had been accidentally delivered to his property, and that he would arrange to get it delivered to Minnesota.

Soon, the property owner was in contact with the McLean County Sheriff's Office in North Dakota. A sheriff's deputy told the property owner that there was not a newly delivered building on Basinger's property in North Dakota. The Sheriff's Office there had arrested him on theft by deception charges in North Dakota, alleging he had scammed North Dakotans as well.

Basinger reportedly told the other Gilchrist Township property owner that their building was delayed because there was a problem with the truck. Basinger allegedly told the property owner he would call back in 15 minutes. He never called back.

Pope County deputies determined that some of the documents Basinger had shown the property owners had been forged from Menards documents, with a Menards color pallette and Menards brand steel, according to the criminal complaint.

Basinger was sentenced in March 2015 on the McLean County, North Dakota, charges and ordered to serve a month under electronic monitoring and repay $48,554.

Those charges alleged a similar situation to that in Pope County: Basinger had been contracted by a North Dakota woman on Craigslist to construct a building on her property. While he allegedly took several large payments from her, he ultimately did not construct the building on her property.