BP man charged for over $6K in alleged fraudulent purchases

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Blooming Prairie man who allegedly acquired more than $6,000 in merchandise from an Austin auto parts dealer by posing as a tow truck company employee is scheduled to make his first appearance on Thursday in Mower County District Court.

Stephen Aaron Craig Brandt, 38, has been charged with felony theft by swindle.

Stephen Aaron Craig Brandt, 38

According to the court complaint, a loss prevention officer for O’Reilly Auto Parts contacted the Austin Police Department on June 23 regarding over $6,000 in merchandise that Brandt had fraudulently acquired from the company’s Austin location. He said that Brandt accomplished the theft by falsely claiming to be employed by Pulver Towing and then fraudulently charging items on the Pulver Towing account.

The loss prevention officer said Brandt had identified himself to an employee at the store and had a distinctive tattoo on the side of his head.

In an email, the loss prevention officer sent correspondence from Pulver Towing to O’Reilly Auto Parts disputing $6,309.31 in charges made at the Austin store from Nov. 30 through May 21. The email also included a screenshot of Brandt’s Facebook profile under the name “Sheb Brandt.”

Employees at the Austin O’Reilly Auto Parts location recognized the Facebook photograph as the individual who made the charges. One employee said Brandt wore a tow truck driver’s work shirt, while another said he left a handwritten note with his phone number and his Facebook profile name. A third employee said Brandt “played the part well” and would often call (or pretend to call) the owner of Pulver Towing and question certain purchases. He noted that Pulver Towing has an account with the Rochester location and that the account is honored at any O’Reilly location. He reviewed the contested charges and agreed all of the items were charged by Brandt.

An officer spoke to Pulver Towing’s director of operations, who said he was alerted to the fraud when the Austin O’Reilly store contacted Pulver Towing about someone trying to return an item that had been charged to the Pulver Towing account. He said that Pulver Towing did not make charges at the Austin O’Reilly store and that Brandt was never employed by Pulver Towing.

A review of Brandt’s criminal record shows prior convictions for theft, burglary, aggravated forgery, stalking and drug possession.