Former UMN employee charged with theft

The employee allegedly bought 78 computers with University of Minnesota funds before reselling them.

The UMPD building is open on East Bank campus.

Ellen Schmidt

The UMPD building is open on East Bank campus.

Emma Dill

 

A former University of Minnesota employee was charged Tuesday with allegedly buying dozens of computers with University funds and then reselling them, according a Hennepin County criminal complaint.

A University of Minnesota Police Department investigation revealed that Michael McDaniel bought 78 computers with funds from the University’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, but did not register them with the University’s IT department. He instead resold them on Craigslist and at pawn shops. 

While McDaniel claims he acted at the direction of unidentified robbers, police have not been able to verify these allegations.

Investigators found computer purchases at the University Bookstore corresponded with cash deposits into McDaniel’s bank accounts. McDaniel sold several of these computers on Craigslist and at pawn shops, according to court documents. The University computer purchases were worth more than $130,000.

McDaniel claimed in a court statement that he began purchasing the fraudulent electronics in September 2017 after being assaulted at gunpoint by three men driving a dark SUV near the CMRR building.

“The robbers gave him a phone and told him they would be in touch and to do what they said and no one would be killed,” the complaint states.  

The men contacted McDaniel the following week, demanding merchandise instead of money, the documents state. 

To “prove” himself, McDaniel claimed the robbers forced him to buy iPads from Target and return empty boxes that were weighted to trick employees. Between Oct. 2 and Oct. 13, 2017, McDaniel purchased and fraudulently returned six empty iPad boxes to local Targets, receiving cash in return. He was charged with five counts of theft by swindle in December 2017, according to court documents.

McDaniel ordered computers from the University using CMRR funds starting in September 2017, according to court documents. Investigators found that McDaniel sold the computers on Craigslist and at pawn shops. When confronted with pawn shop records, McDaniel changed his story, claiming the robbers ordered him to pawn the electronics and give them the money.

McDaniel claimed the men contacted him on a phone with “Snapchat-like messaging that would disappear,” according to the complaint.

“He claimed to have thrown the phone away and that he also no longer had his personal cell phone and had also changed his bank account,” court documents state.

After obtaining the computer serial numbers, investigators found the electronics were distributed throughout the world, with six registered in Minnesota. 

Court records claim that Daniel’s financial records show that he was making payments to more than 12 loan companies and multiple credit cards. The records also show substantial cash withdrawals at Minnesota casinos and travel-related expenses, including a 2017 trip to Italy, the complaint states.

McDaniel worked in several University departments from November 2007 until the University terminated his contract in November. A letter addressed to McDaniel cites his “theft of significant University property” as the reason for his termination. Most recently McDaniel served as an administrative consultant for CMRR, University documents show.

As of Tuesday, McDaniel was not in police custody. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 13.