Employee faces charges for swindling $350,000: Pillager man later worked on Brainerd School District projects
A Pillager man with a history of working as a project manager on recent Brainerd School District building projects was charged last month with swindling a Hennepin County contractor out of $350,000 while working with the company over the course of two years.
Cale Ryan LaVoie, 46, is facing three felony charges of theft by swindle during his time at Shingobee Builders in Loretto.
LaVoie was since employed as a project manager with ICS Consulting, the lead consultant on the ongoing construction projects in the Brainerd School District.
According to the criminal complaint, the alleged actions took place between October 2015 and June 2017, when LaVoie worked as a project manager for certain construction projects on which Shingobee was the general contractor. As project manager, LaVoie allegedly swindled Shingobee out of funds by having subcontractors submit inflated bids for construction projects and then either depositing the extra money in his personal bank account or, in some cases, splitting it with executives at the subcontracting companies.
LaVoie’s actions went largely undetected because he did not inflate the bids beyond the allotted budget, according to police.
Brainerd School District Superintendent Laine Larson said in a written statement Wednesday, Sept. 4, the district was aware of the charges against LaVoie. She said the district and ICS Consulting reviewed the district construction projects LaVoie worked on and found no impropriety at this time. The district will continue working with ICS Consulting, Larson said.
The CEO of Shingobee Builders reported on July 10, 2017, he found documents on LaVoie’s computer leading him to believe LaVoie was stealing from the company. LaVoie had recently left the company, according to the criminal complaint, which stated the Shingobee CEO monitored LaVoie’s emails after LaVoie gave notice of his departure from the company.
The CEO also found emails LaVoie sent regarding a personal cabin he was building near Baxter. The emails showed a subcontractor LaVoie worked with on several construction projects was also working on LaVoie’s cabin. The CEO then found an invoice for tongue and groove lumber for a project Shingobee was working on. The criminal complaint stated the lumber was sent to a company in Baxter and the project under which the lumber was billed did not require any such lumber.
LaVoie’s bank records show several large checks written to him from at least three subcontractors he had worked with on Shingobee projects.
Police spoke with the owner of one of the subcontracting companies, who confirmed, according to the criminal complaint, LaVoie asked the company to overbid projects and then used the funds to conduct work on his own cabin remodel. The company owner said he wrote a check to LaVoie for about $23,000 after the cabin work was done. Bank records show a check written from the company owner to LaVoie for $23,743.37 on Aug. 12, 2016.
The criminal complaint states the owner of that company also admitted to inflating two other bids by $67,000 and $75,000 at LaVoie’s request.
In another case, the criminal complaint states a second company signed a contract with Shingobee for $358,286. The company was paid a total of $336,175 and later wrote a $30,000 check to LaVoie, which LaVoie deposited into his personal account.
In another project, that same company was paid $52,655 for its work. The president of Shingobee later inspected the work and estimated it should have cost only about $18,050. LaVoie received a $10,000 check from the subcontractor with the project name in the memo line and deposited it into his personal bank account.
Police also spoke with a former employee of that subcontractor, who worked there from 2012-16. According to the criminal complaint, the employee said LaVoie wrote contracts for amounts far above the work being done on projects and then split the extra money with the owner and the vice president of the company.
During a project with a third subcontractor, the criminal complaint states LaVoie asked the company for a second bid after the initial bid of $52,983, as he wanted the company to include a secondary dirt road entrance to the construction project. The company submitted a new bid for $68,983.
After the project was completed, LaVoie reportedly told the subcontractor it had been overpaid by $10,000, as the dirt road was never finished. The company then wrote LaVoie a check for $10,000 with “Shingobee Builders Mistake” written in the memo line. That check, according to the criminal complaint, was deposited into LaVoie’s personal bank account.
LaVoie was charged by summons and is due to appear in Hennepin County District Court Sept. 18.
As of Friday, Sept. 6, it was not known if LaVoie was still employed with ICS Consulting. Two voicemails from the Brainerd Dispatch left at ICS Consulting went unanswered. ICS Consulting welcomed LaVoie to the company via a Twitter post in late August. That tweet has since been deleted.