(FOX 9) - A man and woman are charged with theft by swindle after allegedly falsifying timecards for hours that were never actually worked, while one also stole and resold government equipment.
Nguyen Cong Le, 41, of Columbus, Minnesota is charged with five counts of theft by swindle, and Samantha Rae Marks, 37, also of Columbus, is charged with one count for their part in a scheme that investigators believe stole both government property and taxpayer money.
In Feb. 2020 investigators learned that Le and Marks were in a relationship with each other, when Le faked Marks’ bi-weekly timecards for shifts she allegedly did not work.
According to timecards approved by Le, she did not use a single hour of paid time off (PTO) between Feb. 2, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2020. During pay periods in that time span, Marks claimed to have worked 80 hours in a combination of regular work, comp time, and standard paid holidays.
However, access card logs showed that Marks used employee access to enter secured areas of County buildings only twice between Dec. 1, 2018, and Feb. 19, 2020, indicating that Marks worked few or no hours despite her reporting on the timecards.
Between Sept. 19, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2020, based on timecards submitted and Le approved, Hennepin County paid Marks for 7,042 reported hours, totaling more than $280,000, plus benefits.
Investigators uncovered that Le ultimately hired Marks in 2016 without following county processes to do so.
An internal investigation was prompted by questions from other IT staff regarding Marks’ absence from work, and while looking into the timecard fraud, investigators encountered security video showing Le used his employee access card to enter the Hennepin County Government Center on three separate occasions – taking with him network access layer switches worth thousands of dollars, and other unidentified equipment.
Further investigation uncovered evidence that Le had been taking County network switches and selling them throughout a span of more than seven years to buyers in Oklahoma who paid him via PayPal. Le’s aggregate PayPal sales to the Oklahoma buyers totaled at least approximately $3.9 million between late 2012 and early 2020, according to the complaint.
At the time network switches cost the county anywhere between an estimated $1,170 and $15,210 each, and from 2012 through the end of his employment Le was the employee responsible for maintaining an appropriate number of switches on hand, as well as, ordering them from vendors - despite working hands-on with switches not being part of his job. He also did not keep a comprehensive inventory.
Investigators discovered records on Le’s county-issued laptop indicating that he had received significant transfers of money from PayPal into a Wings Financial Credit Union savings account held solely in his name.
Le also had a Wells Fargo account in his name that included sizable deposits from PayPal similar to the ones received in the Wings account, investigators found.
When contacted and confronted with the video surveillance footage of him taking the equipment, Le said it would not be uncommon for him to work on the weekend, and that he "might have taken [network switches] off-site to ‘restore them’ or ‘get them ready.’" He also claimed that he occasionally brings equipment home, and later back "to another site." He denied that he had ever kept or sold any himself.
Neither Le or Marks are currently in custody at this time.