Watonwan County Human Services employee Jeffrey Matthews has been charged with felony theft in an incident that took place from July 9 through Aug. 12.
The 54-year-old employee is alleged to have garnered $1,631 in wages while not actually working in Watonwan County.
Employees of the Sheriff's department in St. James tracked Matthews' vehicle beginning on July 8, 2013, after it was requested that they investigate the possibility of employee misconduct. They later received a search warrant to place a tracking device on Matthews' vehicle.
According to the complaint, Matthews would leave work in the morning, often driving to various locations around St. James including the post office in Madelia, Sleepy Eye, the Catholic cemetery in New Ulm, the Lake Hanska boat launch area and the Madelia swimming pool, before proceeding to his home in New Ulm, never returning to work. During one month of observation, Matthews had consistently recorded eight hours of work daily in his timesheet. The complaint filed against Matthews shows that he failed to reach eight hours at work at any given time during the one month of observation – hours at work ranged from at the fewest one and one half hours of work to four and one half hours at most.
According to the complaint, Matthews only reached four hours at work four times during the one month recorded. Matthews also took five days of vacation/sick time during this one month of observation.
In a statement issued to KEYC by Chris Rosengren, Matthews' defense attorney, Rosengren says the case against his client is a misunderstanding.
"It's not like he's stealing money from people or anything like that," said Rosengren. "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."
Matthews is a fraud investigator for Watonwan County Human Services. He has been charged with theft-by swindle, a felony in Minnesota. He has also been charged with a gross misdemeanor for misconduct of a public officer or employee. Count one carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Count two carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Matthews was released from jail on his own recognizance. He will appear in court Sept. 23 at 10:30 a.m.