The Whistleblower blog was started in 2008. Look for posts by these contributors: James Eli Shiffer, Jane Friedmann, Brandon Stahl, Eric Roper and Alejandra Matos. | Check out the Whistleblower archive.

Find us on Facebook and Twitter. Find our watchdog and investigative work at The Investigators.

The Star Tribune's journalists need your help blowing the whistle in Minnesota. Contact us here.

Posts about Whistleblowers

Public record: Insurance license revoked after forgery and swindle

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: December 22, 2009 - 4:58 PM

The Minnesota Department of Commerce revoked a Rosemount woman’s insurance license and notary commission and fined her $100,000 after she pleaded guilty to felony forgery and theft by swindle, according to an order signed Dec. 1.

In May, Patrice Pouliot pleaded guilty to forging signatures on 38 checks while working for Title One, Inc., a title company. Pouliot deposited the checks, totaling $63,316.65, into her own bank account.
 
Prior to working for Title One, Pouliot worked for Midwest Guaranty Title Company. She admitted to buying a house during her employment there by falsifying closing documents and paying the seller $308,760 from Midwest Guaranty’s accounts, rather than using her own money.
 
Pouliot, 46, is currently serving a 17-month sentence at the women’s prison in Shakopee.

Weigh in: Are major appliances built to last nowadays?

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: December 16, 2009 - 10:16 AM

 

A Litchfield couple paid cash to fix their clunker of a dishwasher, but still will have to buy a new one.
“My husband and I purchased a dishwasher . . . in June of 2007, installed it July of that year. In August of 2008 the motor 'locked'. Locking means [the motor has failed and] it must be replaced. Our warranty covered parts only, so we had to pay $150.00 in labor. It was installed in September last year. This August it locked again. And parts were no longer covered. Our . . . Certified Repairman advised us to purchase a new dishwasher, as the motors needed in the dishwashers go out quickly (obviously) and they are not warrantied. The total to fix our dishwasher this time would have been $450.00... and who knows when it would need a repair again. [The manufacturer] has since remade the motors but they are not compatible for our unit.
“The purchased price for the dishwasher was $699.00 (plus tax). . . . It is now sitting in our garage. It hasn't been thru a cycle since it was 25 months old. And [the company] considers that an 'old unit'.”
Is faulty workmanship an inevitable product of modern times? How long should major appliances last?

'Beloved Vikings:' Still a digital dream

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: December 7, 2009 - 10:19 AM

A frustrated television viewer vents:

“. . . why, after all these months of preparation and cost to get ready for the digital TV era, have some of the stations not switched to digital? I live in rural Brainerd, MN and was so looking forward to watching the Vikings on digital TV only to find that [several broadcast affiliates] did not go digital and still sends an analog signal.
“I understand that it has something to do with the strength of signal from the individual towers that determine if they have to switch over or not, but nothing was ever said in the ads for the conversion about this being a possibility. I spent a lot of money on an antenna and converters, and was very excited to get the few stations we receive on a digital signal. I thought it was a law that ALL stations had to convert!  This really doesn’t seem fair, especially after I was led to believe my beloved Vikings would come in crystal clear.
“We tried to watch the nationally televised Vikings game last night—it was very frustrating as the picture was horrible and the sound kept cutting in and out.”
What was your experience? Was communication on the conversion to digital crystal clear or did you, like this man, receive weak signals? Do you find that some stations are still broadcasting in analog?

Couple finds diamonds are not forever

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: December 3, 2009 - 12:45 PM

 

Diamonds are forever, but what about diamond-ring guarantees? A couple has become frustrated with a poorly-designed ring that keeps ditching its diamonds. Here’s their story:
“My husband bought me a diamond ring for my birthday last year (Dec. 2008).
August of this year I lost the big diamond at my brother’s wedding reception – luckily the hotel staff FOUND IT right before they were about to vacuum. Lucky me. We brought the ring in thinking it was a freak accident and it wouldn’t happen again. 3 weeks later I lost another diamond – not the big one but a smaller diamond. We brought it in again and it was replaced. [The] company tells us ‘there is a lifetime warranty on the ring’ so the diamond was replaced and the ring was fixed. Well guess what happened? About a month later I lost the same diamond AGAIN. They replaced it – because like their policy states ‘the lifetime of the ring.’
“My husband went in livid and asked them to repair it and asked them why this keeps happening – they told us it was how the ring was designed. They will not give us our money back nor will they let us return the ring for the price it was purchased for – they want us to double the price of the ring.
“So my question is; they are really haphazard with explaining to us how long the “lifetime” of the ring is. Is that 1 year? Is that 4 years? Are they going to keep replacing these diamonds that are falling out with no repercussions? They are losing so much money on this ring yet won’t work with us to make sure we have a quality product. What happens if I want to pass this ring on to my child someday – will they still continue to replace the diamonds?”
What’s the responsibility of the jeweler in this situation? Should the couple just count their diamond-studded blessings?

11 years not enough on 2-year contract

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: December 2, 2009 - 11:48 AM

 

A St. Paul resident cancelled her 11-year-old account with a satellite-TV provider in July and found it would cost her dearly:
“Three days [after cancelling] I received a call from them stating I have a 2-year agreement for their service and owe $380.00 for an early termination fee. I told the woman I had been a customer continuously since 1998.”
It was then that she learned that every time her system required an upgrade or replacement piece, her 2-year agreement began anew. According to the company, her contract began fresh in March 2009 when they replaced a non-compatible receiver provided earlier.
But the customer was sure she had never signed a contract with the company.
“I asked to see a copy of any contract or agreement that I signed and [the caller] stated that their agreement was on their website. I've never looked at or was told to look at their website.”
The customer feels that any agreement or contract should be in writing and signed by both parties. What do you think? Is fine print somewhere on a website, specifically a website she says she’s never visited, enough of a contract?

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT