MAZEPPA, Minn. (WCCO) — As administrator of his tiny Wabasha County village, Duane Hofschulte values every dollar that comes into to the city’s coffers.
Walking through the Mazeppa community center, Hofschulte said, “90 percent of it was paid through charitable gambling.”
That’s a pile of money for this city of 800 residents. The combined fire station and city hall cost about $500,000 to construct. Hofschulte openly admits, Mazeppa’s residents wouldn’t have their new city hall, fire station or fancy fire trucks, if not for the help of charitable gambling.
“It’s the biggest thing we’ve done in the community,” he said.
But the bar that sold pull tabs to benefit the Mazeppa Fire Relief Fund is in deep trouble. Its owner, 57-year-old Orrin Gregory Haugen, is charged with gambling fraud and identify theft. Investigators say as the bar’s owner, he was playing pull tabs illegally. His combined winnings, dating back to 2008, is valued at $8,700.
“The rules are very clear, if you’re selling you can’t play if you’re the owner,” says Tom Barrett, head of Minnesota’s Gambling Control Board.
Barrett’s investigators say Haugen tried to conceal his participation in playing pull tabs and the resulting winnings, by forging past winner’s signatures and using other people’s driver license numbers.
“In this case, he found a way to forge the prize receipts and now the charity is out of business,” Barrett said.
Haugen is charged in Wabasha County Court with one count of identity theft and one count of lawful gambling fraud. Both are felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Investigators believe that Haugen was also playing pull tabs at a second location in Plainview, where he operated the Hill Supper Club and Lounge. That charity benefited the Plainview Lion’s Club.
For now both of these small Wabasha County towns will look for another angel, to help fund what taxpayers can’t afford.
“You can find two or three sites and it’s still not going to make up the difference,” said Hofschulte.
Haugen is to make his first appearance on the charges on Feb. 7 in Wabasha.