Wicklund's innovative investigation gains national recognition
When a large-scale identity theft ring responsible for the theft of about $2.5 million from banks and businesses in 19 states was brought to justice, pivotal investigative work started in Baxter.
Assistant Chief Russ Wicklund connected the dots for the investigation beginning in 2008.
His efforts in what became a task force were praised as being a role model for financial crimes investigators statewide.
More recently, Wicklund was presented with the United States Attorneys Offices’ Director’s Award for 2014.
The award was presented by the then acting attorney general for Minnesota, John Marti.
The case continues with further investigations at the federal level, including the U.S. Postal Service.
The first convictions started in 2012 following numerous guilty pleas in 2011.
The crime ring victimized thousands of people, stealing their identities and Social Security numbers as well as tapping into their bank accounts. The criminal conspiracy, lasting from 2006 to 2011, was aimed at defrauding banks, bank customers and businesses. Victim information was used to create counterfeit checks and false identification documents. Expensive merchandise was purchased and returned for cash. At banks, criminals posed as customers and withdrew money from the victims’ accounts. Victim identities were stolen from the mail, vehicle break-ins, business burglaries, places of employment and bank employees among other sources.
Wicklund saw a connection between individuals committing crimes and knew there was a much larger case. He gathered evidence in the forms of receipts and video, and used facial recognition software.
In 2010, Wicklund connected his investigation with that of Barry Bouchie, U.S. Postal inspector, who was looking into the same individuals for crimes at banks. The Internal Revenue Service was brought in and then the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The far-reaching case involved the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B. Schommer was prosecuting the case.
When she was in Baxter to recognize Wicklund’s efforts in the case, Schommer said his investigation was innovative and really the start of putting the case together. He spent multiple days on the witness stand during the trials.