City gets grant to fight financial crime
The city of Duluth will receive a grant to fight financial crimes such as check forgery and bank and mail fraud. The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force awarded Duluth an 18-month, $121,500 grant to pay the wages and benefits for a full-time fi...
The city of Duluth will receive a grant to fight financial crimes such as check forgery and bank and mail fraud.
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force awarded Duluth an 18-month, $121,500 grant to pay the wages and benefits for a full-time financial crimes officer, along with a vehicle allowance, Mayor Herb Bergson announced at a City Hall news conference Tuesday.
The grant begins Jan. 1.
"Because of our proactive officers in our financial crimes unit of the Duluth Police Department, they [the task force] have chosen Duluth to be the first outstate financial crimes office," Bergson said.
State lawmakers established the Twin Cities-based task force in 2001 to fight financial crimes crossing jurisdictional boundaries. Last year, the group helped charge individuals who allegedly committed almost 2,000 crimes.
This year, Duluth investigators worked with the task force to help convict one woman for embezzling about $711,000 in created checks and another who obtained about $66,000 through mail fraud.
The officer will respond to cases across northern Minnesota, Bergson said.
"The person will be sworn in as a Minnesota Task Force member and also as a federal marshal so they will be able to travel in other states and investigate crimes that take them to other communities," he said. "These kinds of cases are all difficult to investigate. They're time-consuming, the crimes are easy to commit, and they're often unpunished because the offenders are often living somewhere else."
Duluth Police Chief Tim Hanson said fighting financial crimes on a regional level makes good sense because suspects and victims are often dispersed across the area.
"This grant will allow us additional tools and resources that we need to go after and prosecute those people who would make targets of our citizens," Hanson said. "While financial crimes don't often get the big, splashy attention that some other crimes get, the impact of financial crimes is often severe."
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a national survey indicated that the dollar volume of identity theft totaled about $52.6 billion in 2004.
But the affect of identity theft goes beyond dollars, Hanson said.
"In the case of identity theft, it can take victims years to restore their good names -- if ever,'' he said. "Many of these criminals prey on some of our most vulnerable people -- the elderly and senior citizens. Financial crimes, just like any other type of crime, take a very severe emotional and psychological toll on their victims.''
Duluth investigators have received more than 332 cases of financial crimes this year, Hanson said. The department has three financial crimes investigators. The city plans to use one of its current officers for the grant-funded position.
"I anticipate this will mean adding another officer" to the unit, he said.