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Vicki Gerdes, Forum News Service, Published January 27 2014

Former Becker County sheriff appears in court on swindle, misconduct charges

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Former Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon made his first district court appearance Monday on allegations that he swindled the public out of money by passing off his old boat as an expensive new one purchased for his department.

Gordon, 58, of Detroit Lakes, has been charged with one count of theft by swindle and presentation of a false claim by a public officer, both felonies, and one gross misdemeanor count of misconduct by a public officer.

Because of bad weather assistant Stearns County Attorney Kevin Voss, who has been assigned to prosecute the case on behalf of the state, was unable to be present for Monday’s hearing.

The Stearns County Attorney's Office is handling the case for conflict of interest reasons. The complaint was filed earlier this month.

Gordon's attorney, Paul Thorwaldsen of Detroit Lakes, requested that his client be released on his own recognizance pending his next court appearance, a request that was granted by District Court Judge Jay Carlson.

Thorwaldsen also said that his client would waive his right to a speedy omnibus hearing, which will be scheduled for sometime in mid-to-late March, Carlson noted.

Another request from Thorwaldsen, that the state waive its fingerprinting requirement for Gordon on the felony charges, on the grounds that his prints were already on file, was denied.

"This is a non-waivable requirement," Judge Carlson said, then informed Gordon that he would need to submit to the booking process within three days of the hearing.

After the hearing, Thorwaldsen said that as the prosecution was unable to file all the necessary disclosures on Monday, neither he nor his client had the opportunity to review them, but "there are some mistakes in the (criminal) complaint that will need to be addressed," he added.

Thorwaldsen declined to make any further comment on his client's behalf following the hearing.

The criminal complaint against Gordon comes after a yearlong investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, into a boat purchased by the Becker County Sheriff's Office with grant money the department received from the state's Department of Natural Resources.

The complaint states sheriff's department employees “became suspicious” about the boat, trailer and motor purchased for the department in 2012, when the equipment appeared to be old and of poor quality, and not worth what the county had paid.

“Another point of concern was that the serial number on the boat motor appeared to have been scratched or ground off and was not legible,” the complaint stated.

A deputy for the department told investigators he had seen what appeared to be the same boat at Gordon's property in 2011, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Gordon sold his boat to Becker County for an inflated price and through the use of false documents that hid his ownership.

According to the complaint, a deputy with the sheriff's department who had his own vehicle repair business alleged that Gordon had told him he had a boat he wanted to sell to the county, and he wanted the sale run through the deputy's business. The deputy told investigators that he never saw the boat, motor or trailer in question, "nor did he ever have physical ownership of those items."

The complaint also alleges that Gordon told investigators he had purchased the boat, motor and trailer with his own funds, for more than what the receipts obtained by the BCA show that he actually paid.

The complaint states that Gordon said he had approximately $9,000 invested in the boat, motor and trailer; the BCA investigator obtained estimates from two separate businesses that showed the value of the three pieces of equipment to be between $3,400 and $3,500. The actual amount paid by the county was $7,856, according to court records.