Major Fraud Case Involves MNOSHA Fines

Authorities said as many as 759 companies that paid fines by check between Jan. 1, 2009, and Nov. 18, 2009, could have had fraudulent checks issued to steal money from their bank accounts.

Calling the situation "a potential large-scale case of check fraud," top officials of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) announced that one of its former employees is under investigation for allegedly cashed fraudulent checks on the accounts of companies that paid fines by check last year to the Compliance Unit of MNOSHA, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration. There are 759 businesses across the state that could be involved in the activity because of fines they paid between Jan. 1, 2009, and Nov. 18, 2009.

DLI is MNOSHA's parent agency. It identified the former DLI employee as Terri Lynn Brennan, saying she was identified in a search warrant and had "made copies of some checking account numbers while performing her job duties and used those numbers to create fraudulent checks." Brennan was arrested on a charge of felony theft by swindle on Nov. 19, 2009, is not in custody, and is no longer employed by the state, according to the agency.

"If you don't get a letter, you don't need to worry," BCA Assistant Superintendent Dave Bjerga told employers during a news conference Tuesday. "Only those of you who receive a letter and notice unusual [checking account] activity should contact our investigator." Bjerga said investigators believe the suspect worked with several other people who passed the checks at high-volume retail stores and checking cashing stores.

"Our belief is that many records were destroyed by these individuals and by the time we actually seized computers and that sort of thing, there was nothing left on them for us to glean," Bjerga said.

DLI Commissioner Steve Sviggum also spoke during the news conference. "I would like to stress this very, very strongly: We had a bad actor. We do not think there are any others. We have 439 persons working for the Department of Labor and Industry, 439 very good people serving the best interests of Minnesota," Sviggum said. He said new procedures put in place to prevent such wrongdoing include involving more people in the process, added controls in the DLI financial services unit, and making sure a copy of a cancelled check is not kept in the file of the business that paid a fine in that manner.

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