A Forest Lake man with a history of forgery, theft, and swindle convictions is again facing charges for allegedly bilking Minnesota businesses out of over $230,000 in motor sports equipment.
Richard Patrick Wooton, 54, of Forest Lake has been charged with felony counts of theft by swindle and theft through false representation involving purchases he made with bad checks from numerous Twin Cities businesses.
Charges filed in Hennepin County District Court outline 13 incidents between May and October 2023 alleging Wooton purchased motor sports equipment from 12 businesses across the metro in the cities of Shakopee, Willmar, Columbus, Burnsville, Vadnais Heights, Wyoming, Rogers, Forest Lake, Chisago City, Hugo, East Bethel, and Eden Prairie.
Because the alleged crimes were spread across the metro in various counties, the case was investigated and charged by the Hennepin County Complex Crime Unit, a source familiar with the investigation told Alpha News.
In each case, Wooton is alleged to have presented checks to the businesses for the various purchases that ranged from about $5,400 in a couple of the cases to over $48,000 in one case and nearly everything in between. The total loss to the businesses was $232,204.19.
Charges say Wooton purchased several motorbikes, three scooters, several trailers, a zero-turn lawn mower, a motor, an ATV, a UTV, e-bikes, a skid steer, and a Seadoo boat from the 12 different businesses, returning to one of the businesses twice for purchases.
In each case, Wooton’s checks were returned for insufficient funds or closed checking accounts. Several of the businesses subsequently contacted Wooton about the returned checks, at which point Wooton made excuses that he’d used the wrong checkbook, said he’d send a new check, or asked the businesses to resubmit the checks to the bank, at which point they bounced again. Wooton sent new checks to some of the businesses, which also bounced.
Investigators obtained Wooton’s social media records which showed he tried to sell some of the merchandise on Facebook Marketplace.
A search warrant was obtained for Wooton’s residence in Balsam Lake, Wisc., where investigators found some of the items Wooton had obtained. Other items were recovered at other Wisconsin locations, including those connected to Wooton’s girlfriend and her family.
The criminal complaint describes Wooton as a “career offender” with numerous felony convictions, including 25 listed that include burglaries, swindle, forgeries, receiving stolen property, thefts by check, vehicle theft, non-payment for improvements, and other thefts.
Records from the Minnesota Department of Corrections show Wooton was reincarcerated in November on a probation violation from a previously stayed 21-month prison sentence on a felony conviction for theft by swindle. State records list an anticipated release date of December 2024, barring any new convictions in the interim.
Wooton is scheduled to make his first court appearance on the new charges next week on Feb. 20.
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