Sun Current http://current.mnsun.com Local News for Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina and Richfield Minnesota Sun, 23 Nov 2014 20:24:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Edina skaters win tourney http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-skaters-win-tourney/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-skaters-win-tourney/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 20:24:03 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140177 Edina High doesn’t often lose in tournament hockey, and the two-time defending state Class AA champs came through again Saturday, Nov. 22, against Wayzata in the Channel 12 Turkey Trot finals at Plymouth Ice Center.

Parker Mismash (16) of the Edina High boys hockey team skates into the attack zone during an 11-0 victory over Holy Family Catholic. (Sun Current staff photo by John Sherman)

Parker Mismash (16) of the Edina High boys hockey team skates into the attack zone during an 11-0 victory over Holy Family Catholic. (Sun Current staff photo by John Sherman)

Officially, the game goes into the books as a 3-3 tie. However, since tournament hardware was at stake, the rules mandated a shootout to settle the issue.

Edina outscored Wayzata 2-1 in the shootout to take the title, as senior Dylan Malmquist and junior Casey Dornbach put the puck in the net. Edina goalie Kobi Boe stopped four of five Edina penalty shots. The only Trojan to sneak one past him was Nathan Dingmann, who had two of Wayzata’s three goals in regulation. Garrett Wait countered with two goals for Edina, while Malmquist also scored a goal.

Edina outshot the Trojans by a significant margin, 33-18. Alex Schilling, Wayzata’s junior goalie, had the hot hand with 30 stops.

“We matched Edina’s intensity and physicality,” said Wayzata head coach Pat O’Leary after the game. “And we were able to play a lot of guys. Edina is known for pressuring all over the ice. But we also put a lot of pressure on their defense. I was happy with our effort.”

“Wayzata is a big, strong team,” said Edina head coach Curt Giles. “Every defenseman they put out there is 6-2, and they block shots.”

As for the shootout, Giles said, “I don’t mind a little bit of a pressure spot early in the season. The toughest part for me was when the referee skated over and asked for the numbers of my five shooters.”

Edina came into the game as the No. 1 team in the Let’s Play Hockey state rankings and Wayzata was No. 3. A capacity crowd jammed Plymouth Ice Center to watch, and they were treated to end-to-end action.

“It was a great atmosphere for high school hockey,” said Giles. “It’s fun so see the students support a team like they do at Wayzata. We have great fan support at Edina, too.”

The first round

Neither Edina nor Wayzata had much trouble in the opening round of the tournament, as Wayzata topped Maple Grove 4-1 and Edina buried Holy Family Catholic 11-0.

There was a new definition of “unfair” in the Edina-Holy Family game. The Hornets had a 5-on-3 advantage with an 8-0 lead. The Hornets didn’t score in that instance, instead playing some cat-and-mouse with the puck.

Senior forward Matt Masterman had a huge game for Edina with four goals.

“Everything I shot went in,” he said after the game.

Dornbach added three goals and an assist, while Wait tied a school record with six assists. Malmquist did his usual yeoman’s duty with two goals and two assists. Clayton Phillips and Parker Mismash added to the onslaught with two goals apiece. Henry Bowlby had three assists.

Boe turned away all 14 of Holy Family’s shots.

“Sometimes in a game like this, the snowball rolls downhill,” said Giles. “We were revved up and ready to go and we moved the puck well.

Malmquist was asked about Edina’s aspirations for the season. “Our goal is to win our third straight state championship. We wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less.”

In its first-round game, Wayzata gave up an early goal, and then rebounded to beat Maple Grove 4-1.

Contact John Sherman at john.sherman@ecm-inc.com

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First Blue Cross Blue Shield retail store http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/first-blue-cross-blue-shield-retail-store/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/first-blue-cross-blue-shield-retail-store/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 20:21:08 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140156 Health insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield opened its first retail store Saturday, Nov. 8. The store is located in the Yorkdale Shoppes, 6815 York Ave. S. in Edina, and will focus on providing face-to-face help ranging from personalized service and claims support to free wellness and healthy living seminars. (Submitted photos by Lee Prohofsky Photography)

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Townhomes proposed for old Richfield city garage site http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/townhomes-proposed-for-old-richfield-city-garage-site/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/townhomes-proposed-for-old-richfield-city-garage-site/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:51:55 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140009 A suitor for the old Richfield city garage site has surfaced.

The Richfield City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 10, unanimously gave staff the go-ahead to enter into preliminary negotiations with the Edina-based Donald James Group for the sale of the 3.25-acre site on the 7600 block of Pleasant and Pillsbury Avenues.

The developer has proposed 44 owner-occupied townhomes for the property, which was cleared late last summer when the vacant garages, once used by Richfield’s public works department, were demolished.

The negotiations mean the city is a step closer to selling a piece of property it has been trying to unload since the new public works facility opened near Cedar Avenue and 66th Street in 2008. Those efforts came with heated controversy in 2011 and 2012, when a developer proposed an apartment building with all its units classified as “affordable housing.”

The complex, dubbed Pillsbury Commons, would have been reserved for tenants qualifying under an income cap, prompting some neighbors to rally against the proposal, arguing that no apartment complex should consist of 100 percent “affordable” units. The city council nixed the proposal, citing Richfield’s Comprehensive Plan that calls for medium density housing such as townhomes on the site.

Members of the city council and the Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority supported the townhome proposal during a work session last month, a city staff report notes.

They did, however, express concerns about a number of features of James’ proposal. Those included the site layout, building materials and architecture, according to the staff.

“This is a much better looking development than I proposed the first time,” James said last week.

He added, “I listened, and I agreed” with the critique.

Councilmember Sue Sandahl was glad to see the revision.

“I think it’s a substantial improvement,” Sandahl said.

In the new concept, two-car garages, facing in toward an alley, are placed behind each of the two-story townhomes. Plans also call for a park-like area and a gazebo on the premises, the developer said. The units, according to James, will be 1,800-2,200 square feet and retail for $240,000-$290,000.

“We are looking to get started on these as soon as possible,” said James, who hopes to have the units on the market by next summer.

The next step for the city is to draft a preliminary agreement granting the developer exclusive rights to make a proposal. It would also agree to compensate the city and HRA – which also owns part of the property – for staff and consultant expenses as the process plays out, the staff report notes.

Pending the HRA’s approval in November, the agreement would come to the city council for ratification on Tuesday, Nov. 25 or Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Contact Andrew Wig at andrew.wig@ecm-inc.com or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.

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Holy Yoga at Edina churches http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/holy-yoga-at-edina-churches/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/holy-yoga-at-edina-churches/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:19:04 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140152 Weekly Holy Yoga classes are taking place at Edina churches. Everyone is welcome to attend the classes, which are ongoing. The classes are donation-only with a $5 suggested donations.

Monday classes: adapted class for wrist issues, 9:30 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Church, 6820 St Patrick’s Lane, Edina; chair class, 11:15 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Church; chair class, 12:15 p.m. at Mount Olivet Church, 1200 W. 50th St., Minneapolis; regular mat class, 5:30 p.m. at Colonial Church, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina.

Tuesday classes: regular class, 12:30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church; regular class, 5:30 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church, 6901 Normandale Road, Edina.

Wednesday classes: regular class, 7 a.m. at Mount Olivet Church; chair class, 12:15 a.m. at Mount Olivet Church.

Thursday classes: adapted class for wrist issues, 9:30 a.m. at Mount Olivet Church; regular class, noon at Christ Presbyterian Church.

Friday class: regular class, 9:30 a.m. at Colonial Church.

Saturday class: regular class, 9 a.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church.

Info: facebook.com/holyyoga.twincities

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Eden Prairie prevails for 10th state title http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/eden-prairie-prevails-for-10th-state-title/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/eden-prairie-prevails-for-10th-state-title/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:08:21 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140174 Eden Prairie extended its football championship dynasty during the Prep Bowl state 6A finals Nov. 21 on a chilly night at TCF Bank Stadium. But the Eagles had to rally from a 21-7 halftime deficit before claiming their 10th state big school title.

Eden Prairie wide receiver Blake Cashman proudly displays the ball he caught on a 24-yard scoring pass that tied the score at 21-21 in the fourth quarter of a 28-27 Prep Bowl state 6A championship win over Totino-Grace Nov. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium. (Photo by Rich Moll-richmollhotography.com)

Eden Prairie wide receiver Blake Cashman proudly displays the ball he caught on a 24-yard scoring pass that tied the score at 21-21 in the fourth quarter of a 28-27 Prep Bowl state 6A championship win over Totino-Grace Nov. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium. (Photo by Rich Moll-richmollhotography.com)

Eden Prairie pulled out a hard-fought 28-27 victory over Totino-Grace (11-2). EP won by large margins in three previous meetings against Totino-Grace, but this contest was far from a rout.

EP claimed its 30th consecutive game with the win over Totino-Grace, also nicknamed the Eagles. It was Eden Prairie’s fourth straight title and the Eagles joined Mahnomen (four) and Stephen-Argyle (five) as the only programs to win four or more consecutive state titles.

Eden Prairie, ranked 17th in the country, concluded its championship season with a 13-0 record.

The Eagles battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit to take a 28-21 lead on a 75-yard run by Will Rains with 2 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in regulation.

However, Totino-Grace came right back to score on a 25-yard quarterback keeper by Lance Bernick with 1;39 left. Totino’s coaches decided to go for the win on a two-point conversion pass. But that attempt failed as EP senior strong safety Matt Carson knocked the ball out of the receiver’s grasp near the goal line.

Carson also recovered the onside kick and Eden Prairie was able to run out the clock to clinch another state title.

“I knew Totino-Grace would probably go for two points,” said Grant. “But Carson came up with a great play on their receiver.

“I am so happy for our players who got a chance to be part of this state championship. Many of our seniors didn’t get a lot of playing time during their high school careers, but they worked hard in practices throughout the season and it was nice they could share this state tournament experience.

“This was a special team that trailed in all three of its state playoff games against East Ridge, Maple Grove and Totino-Grace. But the guys kept battling and never panicked. This was one of our toughest roads to a state championship that we ever had to make,” added Grant.

Slow start

Eden Prairie is usually the team controlling the ball and clock while committing few turnovers. Totino-Grace displayed some of those offensive qualities during first-half action of the Prep Bowl championship game.

T-G took the opening drive and capped a 10-play, 64-yard march with a 10-yard touchdown run by Ben Mazzenga in the first quarter. Grace expanded its lead to 14-0 in the second quarter on a 4-yard scoring run by Mazzenga.

EP answered with a 1-yard run by Rains and a Brandon Gould kick. That touchdown was set up by a long kickoff return by J.D. Spielman.

Totino-Grace expanded its lead to 21-7 with 27 seconds left in the first half on a 1-yard scoring run by Kez Flomo. Grace had a 200-79 advantage in total offensive yards at that point.

But Eden Prairie began to gain momentum in the third quarter. Rains broke loose for a 57-yard TD  run with 9:47 remaining in that quarter.

Then wide receiver Blake Cashman caught a 24-yard scoring pass from quarterback Grantham Gillard on a 4th-and-16 play with 8:38 left in the fourth quarter. That TD tied the score at 21-21.

Rains sprinted 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:46 remaining and that set up the game’s dramatic moments in the final two minutes.

Rains rushed 26 times for 230 yards and three touchdowns despite playing with a 101-degree temperature.

“Will wasn’t feeling well and had a fever coming into the game,” said Grant. “But my dad [Bud] once said that some of his best players had their finest games when they were ill.

“And Rains did just that. He broke some important long runs for us in the win over Totino-Grace. Our fullbacks T.J. Conrad and Alec Hetherington didn’t carry the ball but did good jobs blocking for Rains and our other backs. Our offensive line began opening holes with effective blocking in the second half.”

Spielman rushed 10 times for 41 yards. Gillard completed three of six passes for 46 yards. Totino-Grace had a final edge of 330-302 in total offensive yards after Eden Prairie’s strong second-half performance.

Cashman and Carson topped the Eagle defensive chart in tackles with 10 solos apiece. Ryan Christensen and Connor-Novak Goar contributed seven tackles each.

Cashman has been a member of Eden Prairie’s last two state title teams after missing the state tournament because of an injury sustained during his sophomore season.

“Our guys had a lot of confidence and pride and kept our composure during all three state tournament games in which we trailed,” said Cashman. “Winning another state title was exciting.

“Totino-Grace was a tough opponent, but our coaches did great jobs helping us make adjustments in the second half. It was very emotional for me to be part of this special team and end the season with a championship.”

Grant lauded the efforts of Carson and Cashman among many other Eagle players.

“Carson might have had one of his best games of the season against Totino-Grace,” said Grant. “And Cashman continued to show his versatility and talents as a linebacker and wide receiver.”

Grant was impressed with the Totino-Grace football team.

“Totino played like we usually do,” said Grant. “It used a strong running game with three excellent backs and didn’t turn the ball over.

“We made a few defensive adjustments at halftime and did a better job containing their running attack in the second half.”

Contact Greg Kleven at greg.kleven@ecm-inc.com

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Edina voter turnout, no recount requested http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-voter-turnout-no-recount-requested/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-voter-turnout-no-recount-requested/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 16:00:45 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140129 While voter turnout statewide declined to 50 percent, Edina’s voter turnout was at 69.83 percent.

Edina residents cast 24,049 ballots in the 2014 election, according to City Clerk Deb Mangen.

This year marked the first year residents could vote via absentee ballot before election day without an excuse. Edina had 5,507 absentee ballots cast in 2014, an increase from the 3,114 absentee ballots in 2010, the most recent similar election, Mangen said.

Votes cast on election day also caused a narrow victory for candidate Bob Stewart, who defeated candidate Jennifer Janovy by 123 votes. At a 0.36 percent margin between the two candidates, it’s within the margin needed for a vote recount. However, a candidate needs to request a recount for it to happen, and a recount wasn’t requested in the Edina City Council, Mangen said.

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Column: A river valley trail is overdue http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/column-a-river-valley-trail-is-overdue/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/column-a-river-valley-trail-is-overdue/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:14:58 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=139983 by Larry Granger and Vonda Kelly

Guest Columnists

The long overdue planning for a multi-use trail along the Minnesota River in Bloomington is finally underway after a 30-year stalemate over the type of desired trail surface.

And so, available state funding shifted to develop other parts of the Minnesota River trail system authorized by the Minnesota Legislature to extend between Fort Snelling and LeSueur. Since that time in the 1980s, the Legislature has extended authorization for the Minnesota River Trail to include the full length of the Minnesota River, some 340 or so miles, as originally proposed by Gov. Floyd Olson in 1935.

What else has changed is passage of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which calls for equal access to public facilities for the disabled and all age groups. Hence, the planning for hard surface trails being developed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be ready in coming years.

Will the hard surface trails cost more than natural surface trails? Yes, and their maintenance cost may well be more, depending upon the frequency of river flooding. Will the cost per user of a hard surface trail system be less per capita because of the substantially larger number of trail users of many ages and physical conditions? Unquestionably yes. The outcome of the ADA is that more people can use facilities and programs, which is also highly desirable for parks and recreation programming. Beyond the river trail as a recreational activity there is the value of current and future Bloomington residents being able to have close connections to the roots of their community, namely the Minnesota River. This was the “highway” for various cultures over many thousands of years, often in such modes of transportation as the 1790-1850 dugout canoe on display in the Bloomington Town Hall History Museum.

Then came keel boats, poled by fur traders, and steamboats that landed near the end of Lyndale Avenue and at Bloomington Ferry. And still later, the tugboats of today pushing grain barges from Port Cargill in Savage. For a time during World War II, ocean-going tankers and tugboats were also built at Port Cargill.

The trails will go through fields of sweet corn and other crops thriving on rich sediments from past flooding. The Bloomington community subsequently grew from the bluffs to Bloomington’s primary northern boundary of I-494.

Such stories, along with the knowledge emerging from the ongoing archeological work in the river valley can be relayed with information kiosks, signage and at storytelling rest stops that would be available to trails users of all age and abilities, including walkers, runners, joggers, bicyclists, baby buggy riders and their drivers, wheelchair bound folks of many ages and those with canes and walkers.

Hopefully residents from Bloomington and the metro area, and beyond, along with their kids and grandkids, will be ready to experience the Minnesota River Valley and the variety of activities available and accessible to one and all. It’s never too late for returning to one’s roots.

Granger and Kelly are members of the Bloomington Historical Society.

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Gang members arrested, indicted for conspiracy http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/gang-members-arrested-indicted-for-conspiracy/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/gang-members-arrested-indicted-for-conspiracy/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:58:20 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140171 The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Friday announced the arrest and federal indictment of 11 individuals charged with organizing and maintaining two street gangs operating throughout Hennepin County.

The Brooklyn Park Police Department, Brooklyn Center Police Department, Golden Valley Police Department and Richfield Police Department were among the investigators.

The defendants are comprised of alleged leaders, prominent members, and close associates of the “1-9” and “Stick Up Boys” gangs; both of which worked together to illegally obtain and jointly possess firearms. The federal indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, felon in possession of a firearm, and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

“The dismantling of this criminal enterprise, which we believe to be responsible for numerous acts of violence, is a huge win for law enforcement and the residents of Hennepin County. This successful multi-agency operation should send a clear message to others that future violent crimes will be met with similar enforcement and prosecution efforts,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

“The indictment of these alleged gang members is a step forward in the fight against violent crime in Minneapolis,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “As charged, these defendants engaged in armed robbery and drug dealing to fund the illegal purchases of firearms they used to conduct gang warfare. Minnesotans deserve to live in a community free of gangs and gang warfare. We will continue to charge armed criminal organizations in pursuit of this goal. Thanks to the hard work of our state and federal law enforcement partners, these violent defendants are now off the streets.”

“As a result of this joint local and federal investigation, a violent group has been removed from the streets of the Twin Cities,” said ATF-St. Paul Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jim Modzelewski, “ATF is committed to combating firearms violence and will continue to utilize all available resources to increase the safety in our communities.”

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, the 1-9 is led by Veltrez Black, a/k/a “Chief,” and the Stick up Boys are led by Tywin Bender, a/k/a “Finn Winn,” Nitelen Jackson, a/k/a “King Nite,” and Dontevius Catchings, a/k/a “Lil Snake.” The defendants coordinated their illegal activities in order to obtain firearms by theft, trading drugs for guns, and by using straw purchasers without felony histories to buy guns for those members of the gang with felony records.

During the period of the indictment, members of the 1-9 and Stick Up Boys were in a gang war with two other rival gangs. The gang war resulted in the shooting deaths and wounding of numerous gang members on both sides of the conflict. At least 15 alleged gang members have been killed or wounded by gunfire during the gang conflict.

According to the indictment, due to the conflict, members of 1-9 and Stick Up Boys conspired with straw purchasers to illegally acquire and jointly possess firearms. The straw purchasers, identified in the indictment as Deontay Jones of Brooklyn Center and Lakesha Coleman, of Minneapolis, purchased at least 10 guns in their own names and provided at least some of those firearms to members of the 1-9 and Stick Up Boys. Jones filed false police reports explaining that these guns were stolen from his home, when in fact, at least two of the guns were provided to 1-9 gang members.

According to the indictment, Marques Armstong participated in the conspiracy by making his North Minneapolis residence available as a meeting place for members of the two gangs, and as a place for them to store their guns.

The indictment is the result of an intense investigation conducted by the Hennepin County Violent Offender Task Force (VOTF), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Minneapolis Police Department. The investigation began as part of an ongoing effort to reduce gang activity connected with numerous incidents of violent crime in Hennepin County.

VOTF investigators on this case include personnel from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Brooklyn Park Police Department, Brooklyn Center Police Department, Golden Valley Police Department, and Richfield Police Department.

 

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen.

 

Defendant Information:

 

VELTREZ BLACK, a/k/a “Chief,” 25

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

TYWIN BENDER, a/k/a “Finn Winn,” 24

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count

 

NITELEN JACKSON, a/k/a “King Nite,” 24

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

DONTEVIUS CATCHINGS, a/k/a “Lil Snake,” 22

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

CINQUE OWENS, 20

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

JABARI JOHNSON, 24

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

DARRYL PARKER, a/k/a “Thirsty,” 27

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

MARQUIS WOODS, a/k/a “Quis Moe,” 22

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 1 count

 

MARQUES ARMSTRONG, a/k/a “Lil Kease,” 19

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count

 

DEONTAY JONES, 22

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • False Statement During Purchase of a Firearm, 3 counts

 

 

LAKESHA COLEMAN, 26

 

Charges:

  • Conspiracy- Felon in Possession of Firearms, 1 count
  • False Statement During Purchase of a Firearm, 3 counts

 

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Edina Police recognized for Operation Avalanche http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-police-recognized-for-operation-avalanche/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/edina-police-recognized-for-operation-avalanche/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140096 By Lisa Kaczke and Paul Groessel

Sun Newspapers

The Edina Police Department was recognized for its role in Operation Avalanche, a five-year case that resulted in the indictments of 25 people in an alleged bank fraud conspiracy in October.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted 25 individuals, several of whom are from the Twin Cities, who stole or attempted to steal $2 million in the alleged conspiracy. They cashed counterfeit checks, many of them they created, at dozens of check cashing locations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The indictment of the Sienemah Gaye Organization effectively shuts down a pervasive identity theft and bank fraud conspiracy in the Twin Cities,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “This case is representative of a recurring trend – the migration of traditional street criminals to white collar fraud.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recognized the Edina Police Department for its active involvement throughout the investigation during an Oct. 28 press conference.

Operation Avalanche is the second part of the case that also produced Operation Starburst in which crime ring leader Julian Okeayainneh was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in prison in 2012. It began when officers with various agencies, including the Edina Police Department, noticed a pattern in their individual investigations and discovered an organized financial fraud ring, said Edina Retail Crime Investigator Dave Lindman, and a member of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force. Lindman, along with task force member and Edina Officer Joel Moore, received Justice Awards from the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year for their work in Operation Starburst.

Arrests were made Oct. 28 in Minnesota, Oregon and North Dakota, and some defendants appeared in a St. Paul U.S. District Court the same day. The Minnesota defendants listed in the indictment include residents from Anoka, Blaine, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park (four residents), Coon Rapids, St. Paul, Columbia Heights, Richfield, Minneapolis and St. Paul, among others.

“Law enforcement officials and prosecutors … were able to put together the pieces of hundreds of attempted instances of alleged fraud to build today’s conspiracy indictment,” Luger said.

According to court documents, the scheme that ran from at least November 2007 until September 2013 involved the creation of counterfeit checks using illegally obtained bank account information. Lindman explained that with the assistance of “dirty bankers,” the bad checks are processed at a bank without a problem.

Currently 22 people have been charged as part of the fraud. One of the alleged check manufacturers was 28-year-old Brooklyn Park resident Finoh Sahr Fillie, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office indictment. Among the 22 charged, Fillie was one of the three check producers who worked with 12 “recruiters” who distributed checks to the seven “runners” who cashed those checks at banks and other check-cashing establishments.

The three manufacturers used several methods to obtain bank account information, including “insiders” at two banks, who provided account information.

Some of the charged individuals allegedly searched social media websites, looking for posts with tags such as “#myfirstpaycheck,” among others, to find bank account information.

“These criminals targeted Minnesotans, local businesses and financial institutions,” said Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans.

The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force made many of the arrests. The task force included more than “75 federal, state and local law enforcement officers” working in 12 different agencies, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Contact Lisa Kaczke at lisa.kaczke@ecm-inc.com or follow her on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

 
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Condemnation process begins for Richfield’s Portland Avenue project http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/condemnation-process-begins-for-richfields-portland-avenue-project/ http://current.mnsun.com/2014/11/condemnation-process-begins-for-richfields-portland-avenue-project/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:42:52 +0000 http://current.mnsun.com/?p=140004 Portland Avenue in Richfield is set for reconstruction next year. (Sun Current staff photo by Andrew Wig)

Portland Avenue in Richfield is set for reconstruction next year. (Sun Current staff photo by Andrew Wig)

In order to keep the project on schedule for spring, the city of Richfield is proceeding in a condemnation process that will provide the required easements for the reconstruction of Portland Avenue.

The project, covering 67th Street to 77th Street, calls for the addition of boulevards that require 4-foot permanent easements along properties where adequate right-of-way doesn’t exist. Eighty-five parcels along the stretch are affected, according to a city staff report presented during a Tuesday, Nov. 10, Richfield City Council meeting. The council unanimously approved the condemnation process, although the city is still trying to minimize the number of properties where such action will be required.

Out of the 85 parcels affected, voluntary sale agreements have been reached for 46 as of Nov. 10. The commencement process must begin now, the staff report states, in order to keep the project on schedule for spring. All project documents for the county road are due to MnDOT by March, in order to have time for a review regarding federal funding.

The number of property owners who are not cooperating in ceding their land is “clearly in the minority,” Public Works Director Mike Eastling said.

Acquiring the property is particularly difficult for parcels subject to foreclosure, probate or title concerns, the staff report states. Meanwhile, some property owners simply disagree with the road reconstruction.

“There are some that don’t like the project, don’t want to cooperate,” Eastling said.

If condemnation is necessary, he believes it would be a first for the city.

“I don’t believe we’ve ever had to go through the end of the condemnation process,” Eastling said.

That process will proceed along with efforts to acquire the property through voluntary agreements.

In addition to the permanent easements, the Portland Avenue project also requires temporary easements that would remain under ownership of the property holder and turned back over when construction is complete. Property owners will receive compensation for the temporary acquisitions.

In total, the project widens the roadway from 60 feet to 71 feet.

The 6-foot boulevards, in addition to providing pedestrians a buffer from traffic, will also help with snow removal, noted Jeff Pearson, transportation engineer for Richfield. The extra space allows for to snow pile up when plowed from the road.

While the new Portland Avenue corridor will require more land, the roadway itself is getting narrower. Portland Avenue was once exclusively a four-lane road, until much of the stretch was recently re-striped for two travel lanes, a left-turn lane and bike lanes.

The reconstruction will take on that configuration. In addition to the 6-foot boulevards, it will be lined with a 6-foot sidewalk on one side and an 8-foot multi-use recreational path on the other.

Contact Andrew Wig at andrew.wig@ecm-inc.com or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.

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