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Grand Forks motel employee accused of inside theft of more than $10,000

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Grand Forks motel employee accused of inside theft of more than $10,000
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

A motel employee who disappeared the day after he reported he was robbed at gunpoint is suspected of incrementally stealing more than $10,000 from his employer in the months before the April 1 hold-up, Grand Forks investigators said Monday.

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While interviewing managers, other employees and customers of the motel during the robbery investigation, Sgt. Bill Macki said, police uncovered a string of internal thefts they traced to Ricky Stephens. A felony-theft warrant has been issued for Stephens' arrest, but police don't know where he is.

Stephens, 28, is accused of giving some customers of the Budget Inn Express handwritten receipts, not entering the transactions in the motel's computer system and pocketing the cash, according to an investigator's report filed in District Court. Several customers told police they received such receipts, the report says.

Police figure at least $10,387 was stolen, but the investigator's report says it's not known how much more money was collected from customers and not recorded in the motel's computer system.

During the robbery investigation, Stephens gave police information that contradicted the statements of others interviewed, the report says. He first told police he would take part in the robbery investigation but became unreachable after two days; he moved out of his residence at the motel and disconnected his phone, the report states.

Macki said police are not saying Stephens' alleged embezzlement is linked to the robbery, nor are they saying whether they believe the robbery was real or staged.

"At this point, we're still investigating the robbery as if it were a legitimate incident, but we certainly want to discuss the robbery as well as the thefts with him," Macki said, referring to Stephens.

During the robbery, a surveillance camera captured a man in a black ski mask pointing a black handgun at Stephens who was standing by an open drawer behind the motel's counter.

Stephens reported the hold-up at the motel at 3400 Gateway Drive, telling police the robber took cash and fled out a back door. No one else witnessed the robbery, police said.

During a brief conversation with the Herald the day of the robbery, Stephens said he didn't recognize the robber. He said he was not sure how much money was stolen.

Police said less than $100 in cash was taken from the till, but that the robber also took a blue bank deposit bag that contained an undetermined amount of money.

The robber, who remains at large, was described as a white man who stands 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He was wearing leather work gloves, jeans and a longsleeve, maroon, button-down shirt with a collar.

Stephen Lindblom, a Budget Inn manager, has said he isn't convinced the robbery was real and that the timing of events is suspicious. The motel's owners called for a cab that afternoon to take Stephens to the bank to deposit money, and soon afterward, Stephens reported the robbery, Lindblom said. He said Stephens had worked at the motel for close to a year.

Anyone with information about this incident can call the Police Department at (701) 787-8000.

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