A manager at a Burnsville prepaid debit card company loaded up hundreds of cards for himself worth more than $155,000, using some of the money to buy equipment for a high school sports team and to treat himself to a nearly $1,700 gold chain that he had on when he was booked into jail, according to authorities.

Thomas J. Benedict, 44, of Prior Lake, was charged Thursday in Dakota County District Court with six counts of theft by swindle in connection with the scheme that spanned the several years while he worked for Rixmann Cos.

Benedict appeared in court Thursday and was released without bail ahead of another hearing on April 10. Messages were left with him seeking his response to the allegations.

The total of the suspicious transactions was $155,702.25, with more than $40,000 of it stolen between late September and early January, the charges read.

On Wednesday, Burnsville police collected from the jail's property room a thick gold chain Benedict had on when he was arrested a day earlier while leaving his home, a search warrant affidavit revealed. He surrendered the chain while being booked into the jail.

The document said Benedict bought the 22-inch, 14-karat gold Figaro chain for $1,686.99 with a CashPass prepaid debit card.

According to the criminal complaint:

Officers with Rixmann, which is the parent company of CashPass prepaid card provider and Pawn America pawnshops, alerted police to a discrepancy of roughly $24,000 between money in a bank account and funds put onto prepaid cards.

Benedict, the company's call-center manager, was questioned on Jan. 4 by law enforcement about the account.

By 10:30 that morning, Benedict left the office unexpectedly, then called the next day to say he would be off work because of an ear infection.

Investigators dug deeper and determined that Benedict has been stealing from the company since he was hired in 2015, taking advantage of his ability to initiate and load CashPass prepaid debit cards for employees.

Rixmann unearthed 12 prepaid card accounts that Benedict had been loading with corporate money and then spending the funds. Some of cards were from former employees, while others were test cards. Several cards with his name on them were found in his office.

On Jan. 15, a company officer asked Benedict why he used corporate money to pay for items for a local high school sports program.

"[I] have nothing to say about that," was his reply.

The complaint did not specify the high school sports program tied to Benedict, who has been on the board of Prior Lake Athletics for Youth and coached sixth-grade boys basketball.

Benedict is married and the father of two boys.

Rixmann officers reviewed transactions from 2016 into this year and tied more than 400 of them to Benedict.

Authorities searched his home Tuesday and seized more than 50 items bought with stolen money. They included guns, electronics and motor-vehicle parts. They also seized several prepaid cards connected to fraudulent accounts.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482