A former Ramsey County employee is accused of using a county-issued credit card to embezzle nearly $65,000 over two years.
Paul Richard Scharf, 42, of St. Paul, was charged Friday with 16 felony counts including theft by swindle and embezzlement of public funds. Dakota County prosecutors are handling the case to avoid a conflict.
Scharf was a lead real estate management specialist who worked for Ramsey County for nearly a decade before being fired this week, according to county records. Scharf helped oversee the management of tax-forfeited property including monitoring and coordinating building renovations and demolition. He earned nearly $83,000 last year, according to county records.
According to a criminal complaint, Scharf is accused of making purchases at Menards using his work credit card. The purchased items were then returned, and the retailer issued merchandise credit checks. Scharf sold the credit checks on eBay for as low as 50% of face value.
Agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension located 123 completed eBay transactions between October 2017 and July 2019 for Menards credit checks that could all be traced back to purchases made on Scharf’s work credit card.
In addition, investigators uncovered evidence of Scharf using his work credit card at Target and making returns for gift cards.
Scharf is also accused of pawning tools and equipment purchased with Ramsey County funds. Investigators discovered 21 pawn transactions for Scharf and his ex-boyfriend.
“In each case an item was purchased from a store using Scharf’s county issued credit card; in most cases that same item is then pawned later the same day,” according to the criminal complaint.
Menards Corporate first tipped off the BCA about the credit checks being sold on eBay.
“Mr. Scharf is alleged to have operated a multiyear scheme by making legitimate program purchases within the budget parameters of a program for restoring tax-forfeited properties, and then returning selective purchases for merchandise vouchers later sold for his own gain,” according to a statement from Ramsey County. “We thank the merchants who detected this activity and law enforcement for their thorough investigation resulting in these charges from the Dakota County Attorney.”
The county said it hopes to recover some of the misspent funds through the legal process.
Scharf has been charged via summons in Ramsey County District Court and will make his first appearance on these charges in the next several weeks.