Scam artist accused of fraud in Austin, Twin Cities

Published 10:27 am Friday, February 27, 2015

A 57-year-old Prior Lake woman accused of writing bad checks in the Twin Cities area will be cited for allegedly committing similar crimes in Austin.



Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger said Jeanne Stark recently swindled a computer business out of almost $300 and a hair salon out of about $93.

Stark allegedly got a hair cut, color and more work done at Diane’s Salon Classic on Jan. 15 and tried to pay for it using a credit card.

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The business doesn’t take credit cards, however, so Stark allegedly promised to come back the next day to pay with a check. Salon employees reported to police Thursday that Stark never came back.

Police also learned Stark went to Simplified Technology Solutions on Jan. 15 to get a laptop upgraded. When it came time to ring up her bill at about $293 for the upgrades, she told employees she was starting a business, Bright Star Creations and More, and would need estimates on several computers.

Krueger said the store worked with Stark over the next few weeks to get estimates for at least two PCs and another laptop. Stark came into the store on Feb. 9 to sign for the estimate and tried to pay for the computers on Feb. 16. Stark allegedly gave employees a Mastercard number and asked them to ring up the purchase, almost $7,000, on the following day.

The card was declined.

Store employees called Stark last week and she promised to come in and pay, but the store hadn’t heard from her since. Krueger said the store is only out the $293 as employees never finished the larger transaction.

Stark is also charged with theft by check in Washington County district court, and the police sergeant investigating her is warning business owners to be aware.

Stark was arrested on Saturday at a Bloomington pawn shop and released without bail Tuesday from the Washington County Jail.

Over three days in late November, police say, Jeanne Stark wrote more than $12,000 in bad checks at Sew With Me, a Stillwater sewing machine shop.

Two days later, on Dec. 1, she bought a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee from Sante Fe Auto Group in Stillwater, writing a check for $15,049 from the same nonexistent Wells Fargo account, according to police reports.

“She looks like a nice old grandma, but she will steal all she can,” said Sgt. Jeff Stender of the Stillwater police department. “This is a woman who is not interested in being rehabilitated. This is what she does. … This woman deserves no chances and none of our sympathy.”

Stark has a lengthy criminal history, dating back to 1981, mostly for check forgery, theft and fraud-related crimes, Stender said. She has served time in the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee through the years and most recently was released on Nov. 17, he said.

Krueger said Austin police have mailed citations to her at a Prior Lake address after they spoke to her on the phone. She allegedly told area businesses she was house sitting in Austin, but the address she gave doesn’t exist.

—Pioneer Press content distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.