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Steve Schulz, Forum Communications Co., Published July 10 2010

Man arrested for posing as FEMA official

WADENA, Minn. – A Minneapolis man was charged June 25 in Wadena County District Court with impersonating an officer and unfair trade practices for allegedly posing as a FEMA and OSHA officer.

According to court documents, police said that Gerald Bruce Nelms, 33, was seen on June 22 in the hardest-hit areas of Wadena after the June 17 tornado, representing himself as a FEMA agent.

Court documents said on June 23, Nelms also allegedly represented himself as an agent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and asked business owners if they had lists of damaged properties in town. When he was asked for OSHA identification, Nelms was unable to produce credentials, the court complaint said.

According to court records, Nelms told officers he was “not technically” a FEMA representative, and then officers ordered him to leave the city. But later in the day, police learned he had since approached at least two more businesses trying to solicit contracting jobs. And then he was arrested.

Nelms was charged with impersonating an officer and deceptive or unfair trade practices. It is illegal in the city of Wadena to solicit business door to door before obtaining a peddler’s licence, court documents said.

Nelms was released on his own recognizance.

Nelms said he didn’t do anything wrong and that he has put a lot of effort into building up his name and his business name.

“I’ve worked 10 years to make that name wholesome and righteous,” he said.

An omnibus hearing was scheduled for July 27.

Steve Schulz is a reporter at the Wadena (Minn.) Pioneer Journal