ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A longtime carnival operator in the Twin Cities is being sued for not making good on his contracts with a number of Minnesota county fairs and town carnivals.
On Wednesday, Minnesota’s attorney general filed a fraud and deceptive trade practices suit against Minnesota’s Magic Midway, which is based in Ramsey.
The suit claims that its owner, Edwin “Skip” Reinke, took down payment money from at least seven area fairs and carnivals but never showed up for the actual events.
In New London last July, Reinke’s midway rides and concession stands never came to town as advertised.
“Being a small town with a limited budget, we can’t have people not show up,” said New London Water Days committee member Racquel Skindelien.
Skindelien says she called Reinke’s home dozens of times, until finally she was told that he was dead.
“The gentleman answered the phone and said I’d interrupted a prayer circle, and that Ed had just passed away,” she said. “We found out later it was untrue.”
New London’s carnival organizers were not alone.
At least six other counties and towns were cheated out of deposit money they paid Reinke as part of the agreement for him to come to town.
Those deposits would normally run between $2,000 and $8,500.
Big Stone County Fair organizers lost out after being double booked.
“[Reinke] said it was no problem, and that he has 30 rides, plenty of workers and it won’t be an issue,” said committee member Bruce Wellendorf.
Reinke canceled the morning the Big Stone County Fair was supposed to begin. The committee still hasn’t received the $5,000 down payment.
That’s why Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing Reinke’s business — to force him to repay those he cheated.
“It’s sort of a double whammy to the counties and fairs and is costing them a lot of money they don’t have,” she said. “And it spoils what is supposed to be a fun community event.”
Reached by telephone, Reinke doesn’t deny being a no show at the listed events or for keeping thousands of dollars in deposits.
He says he intends to repay the money when he can sell off his business, for which he says there are currently no buyers.
“He was spoiling the fun, but also taking money that these entities don’t have,” Swanson said.
Of the seven counties and towns alleging the fraud, only New London was reimbursed the $5,000 it had put down on the carnival contract.