A former Golden Valley motor vehicle licensing employee is accused of skimming vehicle fees and taking money from a car dealer to falsify title and registration documents.
Courtney Allyn Olson, 35, of Maple Grove, faces three felony charges—theft by swindle, theft of public funds and failure to pay over state funds—along with two gross misdemeanor counts of misconduct of a public officer or employee.
Golden Valley Police arrested Olson on March 28, and the city terminated her employment three days later. Golden Valley’s Motor Vehicle Licensing Department suddenly and mysteriously closed on April 1 to allow investigators and independent auditor to dig into the allegations. The reasons behind the closure only came known Wednesday, when Hennepin County attorneys filed charges against Olson.
Golden Valley Police first learned of Olson when a coworker contacted them with suspicions related to registrations and financial transactions Olson handled. Prosecutors believe a car dealer in Spring Lake Park paid Olson $200 a week to fraudulently stamp state title applications and registrations so the dealer could obtain loans. In the criminal complaint, prosecutors list 18 vehicles in which they believe Olson stamped the applications as “paid” but didn’t record them in the department’s computer system. The incidents date to last October, though most occurred in February 2011.
Olson, who was hired in 2008, was one of six clerks in the Golden Valley Motor Vehicle Licensing Department. This was one of 175 offices throughout the state working on contract with the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles.
After Olson’s arrest, city officials closed the licensing department and hired an independent auditor to review all policies, procedures and internal controls. City officials say they have already begun implementing the auditor’s preliminary recommendations for preventing mishandling and theft of funds.
An unsigned written statement on the city’s Web site says “The City of Golden Valley takes the public trust and public service seriously and is very disappointed that it has been compromised by this incident. The City has moved forward deliberately to identify the procedures and policies that allowed this to happen.”
Golden Valley’s Motor Vehicle Licensing Department works on contract for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Driver and Vehicle Services Division. The City will seek state authorization to reopen the office as soon as possible, according to the written statement, following full compliance with recommendations from both the state and independent reviews.