A North Hudson coin transport business was targeted by current and former employees who made off with more than $30,000 in currency, according to charges filed last week in St. Croix County Circuit Court.
The alleged thefts were uncovered after a routine traffic stop in Hudson that snowballed into a multi-suspect investigation as coin boxes, surveillance video and interviews surfaced, according to charges filed in the ongoing case.
The case involves three separate thefts - one allegedly perpetrated by a North Hudson man and his girlfriend, the other two suspected by a Minnesota man - but North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert said there's no evidence at this point to suggest the main suspects were working with each other.
In fact, he said it appeared a burglary at the Thillens Cagistics facility in North Hudson was occurring at the same time as Hudson police were conducting the traffic stop that turned up the first cache of stolen loot.
"They may have literally occurred the same night without any connection," Richert said, adding that he was to meet again this week with company officials involving more possible incidents at the Monroe Street North business.
The initial discovery occurred during a 10:27 p.m. Jan. 30 traffic stop at Second and Walnut streets in Hudson.
Traffic stop discovery
According to criminal complaints:
Officers questioned the driver, Cottage Grove, Minn., resident Mikaela M. Olander, and the passenger, North Hudson resident David A. Siegert, before confiscating suspected pot, methamphetamine and other narcotics. Siegert, 33, told officers they were on their way "to the casino," the complaint states.
Siegert warned officers that they would find change in the trunk that he had cleaned out from a shipment that remained in a truck while working for Thillens.
Asked how much they would find, Siegert replied, "it's all nickels and quarters."
Inspection of the trunk turned up 15 cardboard boxes labeled "$500 quarters" that added up to $7,500. Officers also found spare change and 11 empty plastic money bags, each labeled "$1,000."
Siegert later said he had told his manager he'd gone back to clean out a rental truck used to transport coins between the North Hudson facility and a St. Paul business that boxes them up. However, he didn't tell his boss how much money remained in it after unloading the rental truck. He said he wasn't planning to use the money at the casino.
Officers later spoke with the Thillens manager, who said he didn't know Siegert - who had worked with the company since December - was in possession of that amount of money. The manager also noted Siegert should have known to call 24-hour on-call supervisor to access the company facility to return the money.
Video surveillance from 4:23 p.m. Jan. 30 showed Siegert and Olander in the company's North Hudson coin vault, where they unloaded boxed coins from the rental truck. The video revealed "some coinage left" on the rental truck before it was driven away from the facility. The manager said that was the money found in the car during the traffic stop.
The manager said he recognized Olander, who had applied to work at the company with Siegert.
Siegert was charged with felony theft and narcotic drug possession. Olander, 31, was charged with felony theft, along with methamphetamine possession and narcotic drug possession.
Siegert was released Jan. 31 after his $1,000 cash bond was incorrectly entered as a signature bond in the court services system. He didn't show for a Feb. 2 hearing, where St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack issued a warrant for his arrest.
Olander posted $1,000 cash bond Monday, Feb. 5.
The manager later told officers additional surveillance footage captured other men loading bags full of coins into a black Hummer the same night at the Thillens facility. The name "Riley McWatters" was mentioned.
That led to the biggest discovery - $23,000 in missing change.
According to a complaint issued against McWatters:
The Thillens manager showed North Hudson police surveillance footage from the 11 p.m. hour of Jan. 30 depicting former employee McWatters burglarizing the company's North Hudson facility. The manager said McWatters had been fired Jan. 26 for job abandonment and suspected drug possession.
The Jan. 30 footage shows McWatters getting out of a black Hummer at the facility, where he unsuccessfully tries entering by using his former security badge; the manager said his badge had been deactivated. McWatters is seen returning to the Hummer and coming back to the building with a key badge belonging to a different former employee. The manager said that badge, which was not deactivated, had been kept in his desk.
McWatters and another man entered the building. He's later seen backing the Hummer up to coin vault door before joining two other suspects in shuttling bags of coins to the vehicle.
The total amount stolen in that instance was $17,000, the manager reported.
The manager returned to North Hudson police later on Jan. 31 to report a third theft.
He told police video surveillance from Jan. 15 depicted McWatters - who had not been fired at that point - enter Thillens at 10:39 p.m.
McWatters is seen in the business office, where he used a computer, before proceeding to the coin room. At one point, McWatters takes a large, empty satchel and places three full bags of coins inside it. He takes it out to the vehicle he arrived in, according to the video, and is handed the now-empty satchel by an unknown passenger.
McWatters then returns to the coin room and repeats the process with a fourth bag.
The manager reported the coins taken in that theft to be valued at $6,000.
St. Croix County prosecutors charged the Shoreview, Minn., resident with two counts of felony theft and one count of burglary. St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham issued a nationwide warrant for McWatters.
Richert said that warrant signals the severity of the case, calling it "very significant to the business."
He said company officials have been "great to work with" as part of the investigation and that his understanding was that Thillens runs background checks on its workers. Still, he said the case is a reminder that "it's about hiring the right people."
"When you have bad employees, this is what happens," Richert said.