NU man convicted of theft-by-swindle
NEW ULM — A 44-year-old New Ulm man who placed expensive items in his cart at Menards and had an employee charge him for much cheaper items, was sentenced for gross misdemeanor theft-by-swindle in Brown County District Court Dec. 14.
Two counts of misdemeanor theft-by-swindle were dismissed in a plea agreement. Gregory A. Wendinger, 61697 Valley High Road was originally charged with one count of felony theft-by-swindle and two counts of misdemeanor theft-by-swindle.
Wendinger was sentenced to 365 days in jail, 355 days stayed for 2 years supervised probation, Huber privileges are appropriate. He may complete 80 hours Sentenced To Service/Community Work Service in lieu of jail, to be completed within 9 months, or report to jail.
Wendinger was fined $2,341.87 including $1,556.87 in restitution. All fines can be worked off by STS, if available. He was ordered to write a letter of apology to the victim, not enter their residence or the New Ulm Menards for the duration of probation, and obtain agent permission before leaving the State.
According to the complaint, New Ulm Police were dispatched on Feb. 12, 2020 to Menards, 2200 Westridge Road, New Ulm for a theft report. Mark O’Neill, the store manager told police Wendinger placed expensive items in his cart and had an employee charge him for much cheaper items.
O’Neill said he learned from the Mankato Menards that on Feb. 4, 2020, Wendinger placed a $1,599.99 dehumidifier in his cart while at the Mankato Menards, went to the checkout lane and switched the Universal Produce Code (UPC) for a cheaper dehumidifier priced at $179.98.
After receiving the information from the Mankato Menards, O’Neill discovered Wendinger did the same thing at the New Ulm Menards on Jan. 25, 2020. O’Neill showed police surveillance video of Wendinger placing a $1,599.99 LGR dehumidifier on his cart that did not have an actual UPC to scan.
Because there was no UPC on the dehumidifier, Wendinger showed the employee a photo of a UPC on his cell phone. After more investigation, O’Neill said Wendinger photographed a cheaper dehumidifier priced at $159.99, paid the $159.99 and left the store with a dehumidifier priced at $1,599.99.
O’Neill said the loss to the store was $1,440, that he had the serial numbers of both dehumidifiers and was able to identify Wendinger because he used his credit card for the purchase.
In addition, O’Neill said he had video surveillance of two separate occasions when Wendinger came into the store and left without paying for items. On Jan. 3, 2020, surveillance video showed Wendinger placing a pair of Rugged Wear gloves at the bottom of numerous plastic totes and that Wendinger took five pair of size XL gloves, totaling $59.95, and three pair of XXL gloves, totaling $35.97.
O’Neill said Wendinger paid for the totes but not the gloves, which created a $95.92 loss to the store.
On Feb. 3, 2020, surveillance video showed Wendinger placing a 10-pack of 90 degree elbow PVC in another stack of totes. Wendinger placed the PVC under the totes, which were at an angle, keeping them concealed from the check-out employee. The price of the PVC was $20.95.
The total value of all three thefts was $1,556.87.
(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@