Burglar says he stole $130,000 from woman accused of theft from countyCharges of theft against a Carlton County transfer station worker took a surprising turn last week when a man who burglarized her home twice in the fall of 2010 claimed he took cash from her home far in excess of what he was convicted of stealing.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Charges of theft against a Carlton County transfer station worker took a surprising turn last week when a man who burglarized her home twice in the fall of 2010 claimed he took cash from her home far in excess of what he was convicted of stealing.
Joanne Marie Wappes, 63, of Cloquet is charged with felony theft of public funds and theft by swindle — of sums that allegedly could add up to more than $1 million, according to the criminal complaint and previous hearings — after an investigation by her supervisors and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office revealed Wappes allegedly was manipulating the cash register at the transfer station. She had been employed there since 1975, full-time since 1984 and is currently on unpaid leave while the criminal case against her proceeds.
The man convicted of stealing money from Wappes, David Michael Smith, 51, pleaded guilty to entering Wappes’ residence on Selmser Avenue in Cloquet during the daytime hours of Oct. 11, 2010, as well as Sept. 21 of the same year.
According to the complaint filed in the case, Cloquet Police were called to Selmser Avenue on Oct. 11 by a resident who said he observed a man wearing a red hooded sweatshirt get out of a van and attempt to pry open a sliding glass door on the caller’s house. When the complainant went to the door, he observed the man walk away and then go to the neighbor’s house and attempt to pry open the door on that house, at which time the complainant called police.
When an officer was talking with the complainant, he observed a man meeting the description of the alleged intruder walking down the street with a large object under his arm. The complainant confirmed that the man was the same one who had gone up to his house and the neighboring house.
As police questioned the man, who identified himself as Smith, they noted the object he carried under his arm was a large cylinder with U.S. currency inside. At the time, Smith told officers he always carried money around with him. A further search yielded more money wadded up in both of Smith’s pockets, as well as casino vouchers and personal checks made out to the resident of the neighboring house [Wappes].
Another officer who arrived on the scene at that time recognized the property in Smith’s possession as belonging to Wappes, stating he was aware she had also been burglarized earlier in September.
Smith was then taken into custody, and upon further questioning, admitted to the burglary, stating he was also responsible for the September burglary.
While the criminal complaint in Smith’s case says he stole $14,000, Smith told Northland’s NewsCenter last week that he took $40,000 from Wappes the first time and $90,000 the second time. He also said he notified authorities of large amounts of cash that Wappes had in her home.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler responded that he was surprised to hear of Smith’s claims.
“That’s news to me,” he told the Pine Journal. “I have no idea why he would say that or the veracity of those comments.”
At the time of Wappes’ first court appearance in September, Pertler told the courtroom there was “money all over the house … and maybe some that (investigators) didn’t find.”
It is unknown whether Smith’s claims are true or not.
Even if they are true and he took more money from Wappes’ home than he was charged with stealing, Assistant Carlton County Attorney Michael Boese explained a person can’t be criminally charged for the same crime twice, referring to the policy as “double jeopardy.”
“You can’t be charged twice or receive punishment more than once for the same factual act or occurrence,” Boese said.
Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande also said it was difficult for investigators to gauge the full extent of the burglary of Wappes’ home because of the condition of the home, but confirmed that Smith did tell investigators there was cash lying around the home.
Smith is familiar to Cloquet law enforcement officials. He has a fairly lengthy criminal record, including charges of DWI, careless driving, disorderly conduct, possession of drugs, possession of stolen property, shoplifting, giving a false name to law enforcement and two second-degree burglary convictions, for robbing Wappes home twice.
While Smith was sentenced to 18 and 23 months for the Wappes burglaries, both sentences were stayed and — with credit for 157 days served in jail while the case unfolded — Smith served few (if any) days after his March sentencing.
Nine months after that sentencing, Smith was again arrested for burglary, this time for a home on 14th Street in Cloquet. He was charged with second-degree burglary, receiving stolen property — both felonies — and petty misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
He was convicted of receiving stolen property, and the other three charges were dismissed. According to court records, Smith was sentenced to 17 months at St. Cloud Minnesota Correctional facility, but the sentence was stayed again and it appears he received credit for the same 157 days he served for burglarizing the Wappes’ residence.
As of Oct. 13 of this year, he still owed $10,659 (including $10,074 restitution) from the Wappes court cases, and $21,735 for the conviction of receiving stolen property. His current residence is listed as Grand Rapids, Minn.