Phony fundraising business facing criminal charges

Mike Gerken now accused of cheating victims in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa

ROGERS, Minn. - A man accused of ripping off dozens of local businesses with a school fundraiser scheme didn’t stop after KARE 11 exposed him.

Prosecutors say he just changed his name. Now Mike Gerken is facing possible prison time.

KARE 11 first profiled Gerken and his businesses, Moms and Dads For Kids and DADS Fundraisers, a year ago. Several local business owners said they had paid him $790 to advertise on a fundraising card that would be sold by local school athletic teams and youth groups. But they said Gerken never produced the cards and most of the school districts had never even heard of him.

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WATCH THE ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION HERE

Two months after KARE 11’s story aired, a man calling himself “Bob Anderson” walked into Knudson Chiropractic in Rogers.

“He was marketing the $790 for the banner ad on the coupon card,” said Dr. Eric Knudson.

Knudson had only been in business five days at the time and thought an advertisement connected to a local fundraiser would be a good way to promote his new business..

“It was exciting. It felt like a great opportunity,” he said

A check was written and a contract was signed. It clearly shows the signature “Bob Anderson.”

But then, Knudson said, he heard nothing from the salesman. “We could not reach him via phone. It seemed like he had blocked that number,” Knudson said.

He Googled the business and discovered KARE 11’s report. “We found out through the investigations you guys had done that his name was Mike Gerken,” Knudson said.

He called the Rogers Police, filed a complaint, and eventually became part of a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Swanson filed suit against Gerken and his businesses, accusing them of ripping off Knudson and as many as 40 other small businesses.

WATCH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TAKE ACTION

“It seems like a scam to us,” Attorney General Lori Swanson said at the time.

Knudson says he felt duped. He is not alone.

After KARE 11’s reports, Gerken headed south to Des Moines. Prosecutors in Iowa say he took checks from 12 businesses for a total of $11,270, again using the alias “Bob Anderson."

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In a criminal complaint, they say Gerken “never contacted local high schools” and “never made any of the fundraising cards."

Gerken faces prison time if he’s convicted in Iowa. He is also criminally charged in connection with Knudson’s case in Minnesota and faces additional charges in Wisconsin.

He signed a consent judgment with the Minnesota Attorney General in August 2017, agreeing to stop selling advertising or fundraising in this state.