Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are opening their mail to find thousands of dollars in refund checks after they were double billed for years on their purchase of squad cars.

Nelson Auto Center, a car dealership located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota formerly held the state contract to sell Ford Police Interceptor SUV’s.

The dealership has now cut refund checks to law enforcement agencies after a KARE 11 investigation exposed widespread overcharges on specially-equipped police vehicles sold under Nelson Auto’s master contract with the state.

WATCH Double Billing the Badge Special Report here: http://www.kare11.com/article/news/investigations/kare-11-special-report-double-billing-the-badge/89-502033833

In the wake of KARE’s reporting, the BCA launched a criminal investigation. In July 2017, Otter Tail County prosecutors filed a five-count complaint accusing Gerry Worner, Nelson Auto’s long time fleet manager, of felony Theft by Swindle.

Worner originally denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, however, he signed an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to one of the theft counts.

WATCH Salesman behind police car double billing scheme to plead guilty report here: http://www.kare11.com/article/news/kare-11-investigates-salesman-behind-police-car-double-billing-scheme-to-plead-guilty/89-528992084

KARE 11’s investigation documented how Nelson Auto overcharged agencies on features like spotlights and heated mirrors that were supposed to be included in the base price according to the state contract.

Nelson Auto’s owners are not facing charges. They say they were not aware of the overcharges, fired Worner, and have cooperated with the investigation.

According to an audit by the Minnesota Department of Administration, taxpayers were overcharged a total of $803,309 on 3,225 vehicles on sales dating back to 2010.

Nelson Auto has sent a letter to law enforcement agencies receiving the refund checks stating;

“…audits were completed which conclude that certain charges are appropriate to be reimbursed to end purchasers, of which your agency is one. Nelson Auto Center, the Otter Tail County Attorney’s office and the State of Minnesota have cooperated to assure that appropriate reimbursements are being made.”

Among those receiving refunds, Hennepin County got a check for $27,857.

In Wright County the refund totaled $25,438.

Brooklyn Center’s check was for $6,423. and Woodbury’s was $7,789.

The Olmsted County Sheriff was paid back $4,257, while in Carver County the total refund for the double billing was $14,853.

The city of Plymouth received a check for $5,604.

The list of cities and towns which were ripped off and are now receiving refunds totals more than 200.

Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor is still conducting a probe of the double billing on state contracts and additional steps government agencies need to adopt to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

Worner’s plea deal is what is known as an Alford Plea. It means he’s not admitting guilt but concedes there is enough evidence for him to be found guilty if the case proceeded to trial.

The deal, while signed, is not official until the court hearing scheduled for May 10th.

Our investigation started after a tip from a viewer.

If you have a suggestion, or want to blow the whistle on fraud or government waste, email us at:

investigations@kare11.com