An Anoka County man was found guilty Tuesday of illegally removing a retaining wall and other property from his foreclosed office building.
Donald Mordal, 46, a businessman in Nowthen, was charged in 2011 with the rare felony crime of removing or damaging property subject to a mortgage with intent to hurt the property’s value. At the time, he was only the second person charged with that offense in Anoka County in the past 25 years.
The police and the bank said Mordal caused more than $40,000 in damage. He defended his actions during his jury trial, saying he had no intent to reduce the value of the building, according to his attorney, Bryan Leary. Mordal stressed that while he wasn’t familiar with the language of the mortgage, he removed only items he reasonably believed belonged to him.
Leary said the defense also focused on the value of the building. In closing arguments, Leary said, he asserted that “if you wipe lipstick off a pig, you don’t reduce its value or change the price of bacon.”
Mordal will be sentenced April 12.
“I don’t think I did anything illegal,” Mordal told the Star Tribune after he was charged in 2011.
After years of building his business, Mordal couldn’t make his mortgage payments in June 2009, and the bank foreclosed on the 7,600-square-foot building he’d helped construct. With it sitting empty, the charges say, he removed some doors and windows, plumbing, cabinets and landscape boulders he had bought and installed.
Mordal was charged with “defeating security on realty.” Prosecutors said he wasn’t charged with a more common felony theft crime, which requires intent to take someone else’s property and deprive them of it. Technically, he owned the property he is alleged to have taken illegally.
None of the property was sold, Mordal said, and a brand-new air-conditioning unit was left behind in the building.
The trial lasted four days and jurors took about six hours to find Mordal guilty.