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Watonwan County Fraud Investigator Charged with Felony Theft

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WATONWAN COUNTY, Minn. -

A fraud investigator with Watonwan County has been charged with felony theft.

 
Court records also indicate 54-year-old Jeffrey Matthews has also been charged with gross misdemeanor misconduct.
 
According to the criminal complaint, Matthews would show up to work and then leave for the day after just a couple of hours. The complaint goes on to say in several instances, Matthews wouldn't do any work while away at all, but rather just drive around, and eventually go to his home in New Ulm--all while he was on the clock.
 
According to court documents the fraud investigator himself is accused of racking up over $1,600 in wages, when he wasn't actually doing the work he was supposed to be.
 
"His timecard would indicate just 8 hours a day basically for all the days that we've alleged...that he was not working when he was supposed to be working," said prosecutor Nicholas Anderson.
 
The criminal complaint lists Matthews' time records from July 9th through August 9th. The time records show Matthews would list 8 hours of work for many days, with the exception of vacation and/or sick leave for 5 days.

Investigators also put a GPS device on Matthews' car and tracked him.

The complaint says Matthews would spend a substantial portion of his day out of work, when he listed 8 hours for a specific day. In one instance, court records indicate Matthews was at work for only an hour and a half.

"After he would initially leave work, he would go to Madelia, usually go to the Post Office and then sit in front of the pool," said Anderson. "He would go to a boat launch in Lake Hanska. He would go to a cemetery in New Ulm, and he would go to like a State Park area in Sleepy Eye."
 
Chris Rosengren is Matthews' defense attorney, and says this case against his client is a misunderstanding.
 
"It's not like he's stealing money from people or anything like that," Rosengren said. "He's just saying he was working and in speaking with him, he was working, or at least appears that he was working for most of the periods of that time."

But Anderson says Matthews was not doing work when he should have been.
 
"There's really no reason for a fraud investigator for Watonwan County to be up in Brown County," Anderson said.
 
But Matthews' attorney says his client was working.
 
"In speaking with my client, he is very adamant that the county got what they paid for," Rosengren said.
 
While the prosecutor says Matthews betrayed the public's trust, Rosengren says that's not the case.
 
"There's some hours here that the county believes aren't properly accounted for, but we don't believe that that amounts to any sort of criminal charges," Rosengren said.
 
Watonwan County officials wouldn't say whether Matthews had been suspended. However, in speaking with Matthews' defense attorney, Chris Rosengren confirmed to News 12 that Matthews is in fact on a paid suspension.

Rosengren also adds Matthews was released from jail on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to make an upcoming court appearance September 23 at 10:30 A.M.