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Carlton County theft at the dump

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A Cloquet woman who has worked at the garbage dump for 30 years was charged with theft of public funds and theft by swindle in Carlton County court Friday. The Duluth News Tribune reports that Joanne Marie Wappes, 63, had been under video surveillance since July, when suspicious behavior was first reported.

According to the criminal complaint, Wappes was giving customers false receipts for cash payments. She would then substitute a cash register tape that resulted in a seemingly accurate tally for each day. Authorities say the number of cash-paying customers was much greater than the number of transactions recorded.

The Pine Journal reports that investigators found many bank accounts in Wappes' name, and that deposits greatly exceeded her income. They also conducted sting operations using marked bills, which never showed up in the bank account used by the transfer station.

A search of Wappes' home revealed "money all over the house," according to Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler. He said the amount stolen could be seven figures.

The Carlton County sheriff's office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Minnesota Department of Revenue are continuing the investigation.

The dump, on Minnesota Highway 210 west of Interstate 35, is open for business as usual.

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