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Grand Forks man charged with embezzling $250,000 in equipment

A Grand Forks man is accused of stealing more than $250,000 worth of pickup bed covers from his employer and selling them to a hardware store in Starbuck, Manitoba.

William Fredlund, 33, was a manager for Applied Products, a Grand Forks-based company that makes the covers. Fredlund, who had been with the company for several years, no longer works there, general manager Scott Fuller said Wednesday.

According to a police affidavit, two employees suspected Fredlund of stealing, so they took photos of pallets of pickup bed covers in the warehouse. A check later that day revealed the pallets were missing, the affidavit says.

In April, when a police investigator confronted Fredlund about the theft, he admitted to stealing covers and selling them to Tony Rathwell, whose father owns Rathwell Hardware in Canada, the affidavit says.

The investigation was delayed while police waited to receive information from Canadian authorities. Fredlund was eventually charged, and he pleaded not guilty to a felony theft charge that carries a maximum prison term of 10 years. He has a pretrial hearing set for Feb. 10.

The affidavit says the goods Fredlund stole were worth $251,721. However, Rathwell said that figure is too high. Fredlund's attorney, Alex Reichert, also said he disagrees with the number police reached.

Prosecutor Nancy Yon said she does not know of any charges being brought against Rathwell. Rathwell said the same. "The bottom line was we were not aware the product was stolen," he said. "We were misled on the source of it."

Rathwell said he believed Fredlund had bought the products from friends whose business had folded. Rathwell said his family's hardware store has paid Applied Products for the missing items.

The town of Starbuck sits about 45 miles west of Winnipeg.