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Former Alexandria, Minnesota, police chief charged with felony theft

Rick Wyffels is accused of purchasing $65,724 worth of items that are missing from the police department, according to court documents.

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Rick Wyffels
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ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – Former Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels spent the weekend in the Douglas County Jail after being arrested by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension following a year-long investigation into alleged financial crimes.

Wyffels, 57, was taken into custody without incident Friday, April 8, 2022 at his Alexandria home, according to a release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. He has been charged with felony theft by swindle, according to court documents.

Wyffels is accused of purchasing $65,724 worth of items that are missing from the police department, according to a criminal complaint. The BCA investigated Wyffels’ credit card transactions from Dec. 16, 2014 to July 7, 2020. Wyffels served as chief from Oct. 31, 2006 and retired on Sept. 30, 2020.

Wyffels was released Monday after posting bail. His next court appearance has been scheduled for June 8.

The Stearns County Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case for the Douglas County Attorney’s Office.

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City-issued credit card

According to the criminal complaint, the BCA found a significant number of purchases Wyffels made using his city-issued credit card. Anything he purchased with the card was required to be documented and turned into the city staff, including accidental or unauthorized purchases. BCA investigators said they couldn’t find any reimbursements made by Wyffels while he was chief.

READ THE FULL CRIMINAL COMPLAINT HERE

During the investigation, the BCA spoke with a police department employee whose duties included purchasing supplies and other office-related needs. The purchases were made using the employee’s city issued credit card. In accordance with the city policy at that time, the employee was supposed to enter the receipts from the credit card and once approved by Wyffels, they would be forwarded to the city’s finance department.The employee told BCA investigators that Wyffels didn’t follow that process. Instead, Wyffels entered the receipts from his city-issued credit card purchases and forwarded them on his own, according to the complaint.

By entering the purchases himself and forwarding them on to the finance department, Wyffels was indicating to staff that the purchases were legitimate and within the city’s parameters for credit card use, the employee told investigators. The employee also said the city had charge accounts at several local businesses where tax-exempt purchases could be made.

BCA investigators confirmed with new Police Chief Scott Kent that many of the credit card items were either not at the police department or were not legitimate purchases, according to the complaint.

This included computers and related equipment, snow shovels, stamps, external hard drives, tow ropes, light bulbs, computer software, a Star Tribune subscription, cell phones, cell phone services, smoke detector, lawn care tools, ethernet cables, headphones, door handles, HDMI cables, dimmer switches, a marine battery, folding tables, a label maker, wi-fi equipment, sprinkler equipment, chemical spray, an automotive battery, hoses and nozzles, a laminator, rodent control products, a container of acetone, chemical gloves, charging cords, an Apple iPad, mops, a chair mat, power outlets, a spotting scope and a “significant number” of fuel purchases that exceeded the maximum gallons than Wyffels’ squad car could hold.

Many of these items, the BCA said, were the type usually delegated to the city’s IT department, administrative staff or maintenance staff. The BCA said that Wyffels wasn’t directed by those departments to make the purchases, and none of the items were located.

The complaint states that Wyffels’ financial records showed that a spotting scope was sold through ebay.com on March 9, 2020 for $3,710 after being advertised as new. The proceeds were transferred to Wyffels’ PayPal account and connected to his email account. Investigators said the proceeds from the sale were withdrawn from the PayPal account to Wyffels’ Wells Fargo bank account.

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On Dec. 15, 2020, the BCA met with Kent. He told an agent that some purchases made by Wyffels, who retired two and a half months earlier, couldn’t be found.

Kent provided the BCA with a three-ring binder containing copies of receipts from the purchases.

In March, Kent again met with the BCA agent again and said he and other police personnel still were unable to find any of the purchased items.

The BCA contacted former Mayor Sara Carlson and she said that a city credit card was issued to Wyffels with the understanding that it was for city business only.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTSALEXANDRIA
Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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