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Minnesota Power thief caught in Hinckley casino hotel

Susan Kay Thompson

A former Minnesota Power official with a history of missing court dates was arrested Wednesday after a brief struggle with Pine County authorities at the Grand Casino Hinckley hotel.

A warrant for the arrest of Susan Kay Thompson, 55, of Hermantown was issued after she failed to appear in State District Court in Duluth last Thursday for her sentencing after pleading guilty to the theft of corporate property. That no-show was a continuation of Thompson's long pattern of missing court hearings before she finally appeared in December to plead guilty to the felony. She admitted that she used a corporate credit card for personal expenses, that it was against corporate policy and that she defrauded the company.

Thompson's husband reported to Hermantown police on Tuesday that he had not seen her since last Thursday.

Hermantown police issued a missing person report saying that Thompson was driving a black 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe with Minnesota license plate 409-EBA and that she might be capable of self-harm if not located. Police said she might be trying to avoid arrest on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear for sentencing.

Thompson was found at Grand Casino Hinckley about 12:30 p.m., and arrested after a brief struggle with Pine County sheriff's deputies while trying to harm herself, Deputy Hermantown Chief Shawn Padden said.

Padden said a door had to be broken when an electrical appliance was heard plummeting into water and Thompson didn't answer the door.

"I hope she gets the help that she needs, but she also has to answer to what she was convicted of," Padden said. "I'm glad no officers were injured and that she'll have to answer for the crime that she committed."

St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme said his office intends to file a felony charge against Thompson of failing to appear in court. Under Minnesota law, a failure to appear charge can be upgraded to a felony if a person fails to appear for court while charged or convicted of a felony.

Thompson could appear in court as early as today.

Duluth defense attorney Kevin Cornwell asked the court last week that he be allowed to withdraw as Thompson's attorney for ethical reasons about a half-hour after she failed to appear for her sentencing. Judge John DeSanto granted the request. Cornwell said at noon Wednesday that he hadn't heard from his former client since then and that he was concerned about her and hoped that she would be found safe.

Cornwell told the court last Thursday that he had communicated by e-mail with Thompson shortly before the time she was to appear in court and she gave him no indication that she wasn't going to report for sentencing.

At that time, DeSanto issued a bench warrant for Thompson's arrest. He ordered that she be brought to the St. Louis County Jail until a new sentencing hearing could be held, with Minnesota Power officials being given a chance to tell the court how Thompson's crimes affected their company.

Thompson was accused of stealing, or not being able to account for, more than $200,000 while using company money for personal expenses and weekend travel, making false claims of company travel and filing for reimbursements by forging her supervisor's signature from 2000 through 2009.

As part of her plea agreement, Thompson agreed to pay $150,000 in restitution.

The unaccounted-for money was discovered during an internal audit conducted by Allete, the parent company of Minnesota Power.

According to the criminal complaint, Duluth police were contacted by a senior vice president at Minnesota Power on March 19, 2010. The company official said that Thompson was under internal investigation for "credit card reconciliation delinquencies and false expense purchases."

Cornwell filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the fact that it fell outside the five-year statute of limitations. Stumme filed a new complaint narrowing the timeline of the alleged crime to begin Dec. 23, 2005, and end Dec. 23, 2010. Court documents filed by the prosecution allege that the diverted money still totaled more than $100,000.