A former employee has been charged with using University of Minnesota funds to buy dozens of computers that he resold, possibly to fund his travel and gambling expenses.
Michael J. McDaniel, 34, told university authorities that three men assaulted him in 2017 and coerced him into making the purchases, according to charges filed in Hennepin County District Court.
But evidence showed that more than $125,000 in profits from reselling about $134,000 worth of computers were deposited in McDaniel’s bank account, according to four counts of felony theft by swindle filed against him.
McDaniel told university officials that the robbers told him they knew “where his son went to school and where his wife worked and how she got there.” He said the robbers gave him a phone and “told him they would be in touch and to do what they said and no one would be killed.”
He said the robbers wanted merchandise. “I am truly sorry for somehow being in the wrong place at the wrong time and I want to do whatever I can to remedy this if possible,” he wrote to university officials.
McDaniel is accused of buying and reselling 78 computers from September 2017to August 2018. He was working at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the time. He was fired in November 2018.
According to the criminal complaint filed in February: A human resources official reported the thefts to campus police in October 2018. The purchases were identified by a finance staffer who noticed that McDaniel had purchased several computers through the U bookstores for his department that were not registered with the IT department.
Asked about the situation, McDaniel produced documentation of the purchases and wrote the letter recounting the alleged assault.
McDaniel later told police that he was “pulled into a dark SUV” in a campus parking lot and held at gunpoint by three unidentified men.
“Defendant then said that the first thing the men asked him to do was to buy iPads from Target and return empty boxes,” McDaniel told an investigator. “Defendant claimed that he had to do that to ‘prove’ himself to them.”
McDaniel said that he met with his assailants up to 10 times to give them computers.
McDaniel changed his story and told an investigator that his assailants ordered him to pawn the electronics and give them the money.
Court records show that McDaniel was charged in December 2017 with buying iPads, returning empty boxes to six different Target stores and depositing about $6,000 in his bank account. He was admitted to a diversion program in that case.
A woman and her boyfriend identified McDaniel in a photo lineup as the person who sold the girlfriend a computer in February 2018 that had been advertised on Craigslist.
According to the charges, financial records showed that McDaniel was paying more than 12 loan companies for several credit cards and had made “substantial” cash withdrawals from Running Aces, Canterbury Park, Mystic Lake and near Treasure Island Casino.
A hearing is scheduled for April 8.