A Cottage Grove man who recently ran for Congress swindled dozens of Wisconsin residents — most of them senior citizens — on snow removal work for which he took their money but never carried out, according to charges filed this week in Wisconsin.
Matthew D. Erickson, 31, the owner of Eden Prairie-based Snow Angels, is charged with five counts of theft, including two counts classified as felonies because his older victims are considered vulnerable.
Erickson was arrested Wednesday and was being held Thursday at the Hennepin County jail awaiting an extradition hearing on Friday.
The alleged scam extended beyond Wisconsin, according to the complaint. An investigation by the Elm Grove, Wis., police "uncovered a large-scale, nationwide criminal theft scheme" orchestrated by Erickson, the complaint said.
The Wisconsin Justice Department identified 111 people victimized by Erickson, including 28 in Wisconsin and the remainder spread out across Minnesota, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island.
Erickson is accused of bilking his victims out of more than $50,000 nationwide, including $13,060 in Wisconsin, the complaint said. Seventeen of the Wisconsin victims are deemed elderly under state law, defined as an adult 60 or older who is at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
A Twitter account belonging to "MN Snow Angels" features a picture of Erickson next to a Toys for Tots box filled with gifts. The company's profile says that it protects "the elderly and vulnerable from slips, falls and fraud; providing the best residential snow service to all Minnesotans!"
The business was registered with Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2017.
In 2016, Erickson mounted a campaign for Congress in Minnesota's Second Congressional District but lost the Republican nomination to now-U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis. That same year, he was the Minnesota spokesman for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In February, Better Business Bureau (BBB) chapters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago issued an alert warning that Snow Angels was a scam. Erickson had taken prepayments of $350 to $650 from customers in those areas and failed to provide services as promised, according to the BBB.
The BBB received 20 complaints about Snow Angels by mid-February; as of Thursday, 25 complaints appeared on its website.
Customers who tried to contact Erickson to get the promised service or a refund didn't receive a response, and neither did the BBB. Addresses listed for Snow Angels in all three states turned out to be UPS boxes.
Erickson, who followed through with some jobs in Minnesota, eventually wrote e-mails to several customers that his company had folded, according to the BBB.
Dan Hendrickson, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, said it was satisfying to see that consumer complaints had resulted in action.