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Woodbury police: Windstorm claim led to illegal windfall

Less than a year after being convicted of a similar crime, a Woodbury woman faces a felony charge for allegedly attempting to fleece an insurance company out of money.

Cheryl Tchida, 48, was arrested April 1 by Woodbury police and jailed on suspicion of defrauding an insurance company.

She was charged in Washington County District Court on April 4. If convicted, Tchida faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

According to a criminal complaint, Woodbury police were alerted to the case by a Farmers Insurance Co. investigator who reported Tchida submitted a claim that her trampoline had been damaged in an October 2010 wind and hail storm.

She then allegedly submitted additional claims for damage to pool floats, a swing set, two grills and part of her deck.

When asked to provide documentation, Tchida allegedly faxed "doctored receipts" to the insurance company for a $3,500 swing set. A check of the receipt at Toys R Us revealed the actual receipt was for a $12 purchase, the complaint states.

The insurance investigator reported Tchida also submitted a $2,300 claim for a gas grill purportedly purchased at Sears. An investigation of that claim turned out the receipt submitted for that claim was actually for warranty work at Sears and not for a grill purchase. When she was contacted about that claim, Tchida withdrew the grill claim, according to the complaint.

In an interview with police, Tchida said she had cut and pasted information for a comparable swing set. She also admitted the Sears grill claim was for warranty work and that she had conducted a similar cut-paste function for that receipt.

After first claiming the grill had been trashed after the storm, Tchida later told police the grill was actually worth $350 and was still at her residence.

The case is not the first time Tchida has been charged with insurance fraud. She was sentenced to 40 days in jail in January for one count of felony insurance fraud stemming from a January 2010 case. In that case, Tchida had reported a $5,000 TV set, $10,000 in tools and $6,500 in cash were stolen in a burglary.

Inconsistencies in her statements and conflicting information led police to search the house, where they found the purportedly stolen TV set concealed in a room above Tchida's garage. Other family members told police no burglary had occurred.

She was also charged with falsely reporting a crime in that case - a charge that was dropped as part of a plea deal.

Tchida is scheduled to make her first court appearance on the new charges May 19.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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