NU woman faces 12 theft by swindle counts

NEW ULM – A 51-year-old New Ulm woman faces 12 counts of felony theft by swindle in Brown County District Court for allegedly taking more than $70,000 from an elderly Brown County woman over a three-year period.

Karla R. Townsend, 51, 100 S. Minnesota St., New Ulm, was charged Monday. She is scheduled to appear in Brown County District Court on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

According to the complaint, Springfield Police asked a New Ulm Police investigator to aid an alleged theft investigation in August. The investigator learned that an elderly Brown County woman gave all her money to Townsend after Townsend described medical or legal concerns to her, including thousands of dollars for surgery, medical equipment, medication costs, rent, car payments court fines, attorney fees and other costs.

The requests for funds started in October 2010. In late 2012, Townsend begin calling the victim, pretend to be in a foreign country and ask her to pay hospital bills. Townsend also told the victim that she was engaged in an overseas property sale and needed money to complete it or needed money for a plane ticket home, according to the complaint.

Another woman would pick up the victim, drive her to the bank where a check would be written to another woman or victim, then cash the check, according to the complaint.

The other woman told investigators Townsend would pick her up in New Ulm and drop her off at a Springfield gas station, before the other woman would pick up the victim to get the money, then drop off the victim at her home, return to the gas station and pick up Townsend, according to the complaint.

A review of Townsend’s EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) case history and Medical Assistance (MA) payments, obtained through an ongoing public assistance theft investigation, revealed that during periods, Townsend claimed to be in foreign countries, she was actually in the U.S., using EBT or MA benefits.

The investigator received copies of about 85 checks written by the victim between Oct. 1, 2010 and Oct. 1, 2013 that either referenced Townsend or were written to her. The victim said Townsend then asked for money to help with ongoing land sales including property taxes, land appraisal fees and closing costs on homes. In 2012, Townsend said she needed money for travel and overseas property sales, according to the complaint.

From Feb. 1, 2013 through July 31, 2013, Townsend received about $9,424 from the victim, $14,075.26 from Aug. 1, 2012 through Jan. 31, 2013; $18,817.11 from Feb. 1, 2012 through July 31, 2012; $17,611.39 from Aug. 1, 2011 through Jan. 31, 2012; and $5,581 from Feb. 1, 2011 through July 31, 2011; and $5,100 from Oct. 4, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2011, according to the complaint.

Townsend was convicted of felony check forgery in Brown County in July 2011, according to the complaint. She is currently on probation and has not received permission to leave Minnesota.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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