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Three charged in theft by swindle art scheme

WELCOME — Derry Todd Dettmer, 44, of New Ulm; Jessica Confer Dettmer, 35, of New Ulm; and Kathleen Frances Dettmer-Skelly, 72, of Welcome are all facing multiple felony charges in Martin County.

Derry and Jessica Dettmer have each been charged with 10 counts of theft by swindle, and Dettmer-Skelly with one count, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Jessica Dettmer also has been charged with 10 counts of aiding and abetting theft by swindle, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Dettmer-Skelly has been charged with eight counts of theft with the intent to exercise temporary control, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, as well as one count of forgery, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

According to the complaint:

In 2011, Derry Dettmer was released from prison on fraud-related charges. Shortly thereafter, he and his wife Jessica began to swindle his family and those close to him for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Through his mother, Kathleen, they stole more than $800,000 from art collectors across the United States. In total, the couple stole more than $1.3 million from their victims and spent all of the proceeds.

On Jan. 14, 2016, an officer with the Sherburn/Welcome Police Department was contacted by an individual concerned she was being defrauded by Dettmer-Skelly. She indicated she was contacted by Dettmer-Skelly, who was the owner of KDS Antiques and Collectibles in Welcome, with a “Letter of Introduction,” identifying several art pieces and collectibles she had for sale. The woman negotiated with Dettmer-Skelly for the acquisition of multiple “high-dollar” art pieces and other collectibles, and an agreement was reached for the purchase of several items Dettmer-Skelly said she had access to obtain.

Between Nov. 9, 2015, and Dec. 23, 2015, Art Brokerage, Inc. and some of its associates completed 11 wire transfers totaling $328,500 to Dettmer-Skelly’s KDS account. The individual said the transfers represented a down payment for the total number of items agreed upon. The individual made contact with police because her conversation with Dettmer-Skelly began to leave her with the impression that she was getting the “run around,” and the items for which she placed down payments did not exist.

On Jan. 15, 2016, the officer spoke to Dettmer-Skelly, who said she had been put in charge of selling rare antiques, collectibles and fine art from two large estates. She said both properties were in probate, and subject to an injunction preventing her from delivering anything until the official reading of “the will” set for March 29, 2016.

On Jan. 19, 2016, the officer was again contacted by the individual, who indicated she had spoken with Dettmer-Skelly over the weekend and had been told Dettmer-Skelly would mortgage her home in order to return the individual’s money. The woman also provided screenshots of a website of a company that had authenticated the art and was involved in the transactions. The business was identified as Wilson Forensic Authentication Experts, located in Sioux Falls.

The woman discovered that the website was hosted by GoDaddy.com and was registered by Jessica Confer Dettmer. She said she confronted Dettmer-Skelly about the connection, and Dettmer-Skelly denied it. The website has since been taken down.

The officer again spoke with Dettmer-Skelly, who again mentioned the two estates and said they are tied together because the two deceased parties were business partners and shared ownership of some items, and both facilities contained property belonging to both parties. She also said she had a business partner for several years, and the pair had gone to auctions together until the partner became ill. She then said she was later contacted by the partner’s niece stating Dettmer-Skelly was being named in a “will” and was in line to inherit $103 million.

Later in the interview, Dettmer-Skelly admitted she had not gone to auctions with the partner, and had only spoken with the person via phone and email exchanges. She said emails she received from the estates were from the partner. She provided two photos of the person as proof they were real, but the photos did not appear to be the same person.

Dettmer-Skelly further stated she was introduced to the partner through her son, Derry, who met the partner while incarcerated in the prison in Faribault. Dettmer-Skelly offered more information, which the officer believed would prove to be false. Later investigations by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed that the partner, along with other names given, did not exist.

Dettmer-Skelly admitted she had received money from the woman who contacted the police, and indicated the money was wired out of her account to an escrow account in Sioux Falls. When the officer said he would contact the banks, she advised that she had in fact wired the money to Jessica Dettmer, who then wired it to a bank in Sioux Falls. She denied that Jessica Dettmer was the owner of the authentication website.

On Jan. 21, 2016, the officer executed a search warrant at the bank Dettmer-Skelly used. A review of her bank accounts showed the 11 wire transfers, and police also learned of three additional accounts. Law enforcement later discovered there were additional transfers of money from other individuals to her account.

The officer made contact with those alleged victims, who gave similar accounts of what had happened.

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