MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 40-year-old Owatonna man is accused of swindling more than $70,000 in liquor from stores in Farmington and Hastings, according to charges filed Wednesday in Dakota County Court.
Stephen Lamers was charged with nine felony counts of theft by swindle in connection with the incident.
According to a criminal complaint, the Hastings Police Department was alerted last fall to a theft scheme involving several businesses in Dakota County. Authorities learned that a man, later identified as Lamers, worked for a liquor distributor as a sales representative. He worked with a restaurant in Hastings, a restaurant/bar in Farmington and a chain of three restaurants in Dakota County.
Lamers had been with the company since 2002 and was responsible for visiting the establishments, making sales and completing orders.
The complaint states Lamers would place an order for a customer, pick up the order at a warehouse and was supposed to deliver that order to the customer. Instead, he didn’t deliver it and would sell it to other customers for cash.
It wasn’t until the restaurants would track their purchases that they weren’t getting the alcohol they were paying for. The Farmington restaurant working with Lamers stopped working with him in April of 2011 because of previous issues with him, the complaint states.
After complaints from a few of Lamers’ clients, police went to talk to him. He said he wasn’t surprised to see them and said he was getting killed in pricing, so he would use the liquor taken from one business and make deals in other places, according to the complaint. He told police he sold some liquor for gas, that he had been stealing from a Farmington restaurant for nine months to a year and a slightly longer time at the Hastings business.
He said he took advantage of the Hastings restaurant because they would write him checks without keeping track of their invoices for alcohol purchases, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, from 2007 to 2011, Lamers stole more than $35,000. The total amount from the case was $70,702.32.
Each theft by swindle charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fine of $10,000 to $20,000.