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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Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
HUDSON — A man accused of trying to arrange sex with a child tried to flee the United States two days after posting bond in St. Croix County, according to court records on Wednesday. St. Croix County prosecutors charged Iqbal K. Tafader, 33, with felony bail jumping after a Feb. 8 incident, where authorities said he was stopped near the Canadian border. The Independence, Wis., resident returned to court Feb. 21, where Judge Michael Waterman ordered him held on $250,000 cash bond — more than twice the amount requested by prosecutors.
HUDSON — Authorities said a two-day sting last week led to the rescue of human trafficking victims and would-be prostitution customers in St. Croix County. The operation was timed months in advance to coincide with the Super Bowl, occurring in Minneapolis — just a half hour’s drive from Hudson, where state, county and local authorities launched one arm of a two-pronged sting.
A North Hudson coin transport business was targeted by current and former employees who made off with more than $30,000 in currency, according to charges filed last week in St. Croix County Circuit Court. The alleged thefts were uncovered after a routine traffic stop in Hudson that snowballed into a multi-suspect investigation as coin boxes, surveillance video and interviews surfaced, according to charges filed in the ongoing case.
An east metro man was killed Monday when the vehicle he was driving crashed into a St. Croix County bridge abutment. The Wisconsin State Patrol identified the driver as 46-year-old Lake Elmo resident Derek S. Baker. Troopers were called at 10:19 a.m. Jan. 29 to eastbound Interstate 94 near Baldwin for the single-vehicle crash. The State Patrol said the vehicle left the road, entered the median and struck the bridge structure.
STILLWATER — A Minnesota judge didn't doubt the the progress a confessed drug dealer had made in treatment, but said those steps weren't enough to avert a prison sentence. Washington County District Court Judge John McBride sentenced Karl R. Heinrichs on Monday, Dec. 4, to six years in prison — four of which must be spent behind bars. The Stillwater man, arrested last year after a sting that involved both Minnesota and Wisconsin authorities, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree drug sales.
Mike Perucca was heading to a medical call Sunday night in the town of St. Joseph when another emergency caught his attention before he got out of his North Hudson neighborhood. "I noticed an abnormal amount of smoke in the area," he said. It didn't take long for the St. Joe first responder — who also works as a Hudson firefighter — to determine the smoke was coming from a garage fire at 700 Fourth St. N. Perucca, who's also the city of Hudson's fire inspector, noticed an orange glow in the garage as he approached the house just before 10:30 p.m. Nov. 12.
The Stillwater man accused of stashing more than 130 pounds of pot in a St. Croix County storage unit could avoid prison, according to statements made last week in court. The attorney for Karl R. Heinrichs said Oct. 25 that a recommendation in a related Minnesota case calls for the 45-year-old to receive a combination of probation and jail. The St. Croix County Circuit Court hearing was originally set for a plea and sentencing, but that was called off after defense attorney Eric Johnson announced a surprise development in the Minnesota case.
A guilty plea was entered and two sexual assault charges were dismissed this week in the case of a former Hudson girls basketball coach. Under a plea agreement announced Tuesday, Oct. 31, Louis J. French pleaded guilty to using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. Three other charges — first-degree child sex assault, repeated sex assault of the same child and causing a child to view sexual activity — were dismissed as part of the agreement.
A collision with a deer on Interstate 94 led to a chain-reaction crash involving 10 vehicles during Thursday’s morning rush hour in Hudson. The Wisconsin State Patrol said the crash occurred at 5:50 a.m. in westbound traffic near the Hudson bridge over the St. Croix River. No injuries were reported, but five of the vehicles involved had to be towed from the scene.