State authorities are investigating a former police chief in Alexandria for allegedly charging thousands of dollars of personal expenses on a city-issued credit card, ranging from electronics and gas to a new car battery.
Over a 2½-year period, Richard Wyffels supposedly bought at least $13,000 in items and services that couldn't be accounted for, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Nicholas Riba wrote in a sworn affidavit accompanying a search warrant. The warrant says investigators have focused on dozens of purchases in locations around Alexandria to "illustrate a pattern of use and potential misuse of city funds."
Wyffels, 57, has not been charged, but the Star Tribune is naming him because of his status as a former public official. He retired from the position in December.
In a statement, city of Alexandria spokesperson Sara Stadtherr said that in fall of 2020, the city's Police Department learned of "several questionable items" purchased with funds from the department's budget, and an inquiry was launched.
"As a result of the inquiries, it was determined that some of these purchases could not be explained by current staff," the statement said. "City officials have no reason to believe this is an ongoing problem because the transactions in question are in the past and are not associated with a current employee, vendor or other person or entity that has a continuing relationship with the city."
Messages left for two BCA spokespeople went unreturned. Attempts to reach Wyffels were unsuccessful.
Riba said in the warrant that he spoke with several current and former officials who confirmed that under city rules, Wyffels should have only used his card to conduct city business. Current police chief Scott Kent met with investigators last December and provided them with a list of suspicious purchases made by his predecessor, telling them that he and his officers had "checked everywhere" for the purchased items to no avail, according to the warrant.
Using receipts and invoices, investigators determined that Wyffels' card had been charged dozens of times over the years to cover personal expenses, the warrant says, ranging from $149.99 for a new car battery to the $295.33 he allegedly spent on batteries, printer ink and a smart light bulb during two separate shopping trips to OfficeMax on Christmas Eve in 2018.
After allegedly spending nearly $5,000 on a computer, a Nest surveillance camera and other electronics in February 2019, authorities say that Wyffels made a series of purchases of software programs and online services over the next 16 months. Among the expenses was a $197.08 charge for a Star Tribune subscription, the warrant says.
Then, last July, Wyffels is said to have used city funds to pay for a high-powered scope — at a cost of roughly $4,700 — that he later said was lost or stolen after he left it at police headquarters, according to the warrant.
It was not clear when authorities first became aware of Wyffels' alleged activities or if they took any action against him. BCA investigators also interviewed the town's former mayor, Sara Carlson, who told them that Wyffels seemed paranoid when he called her out of the blue on Election Day to ask whether Kent, the current chief, had inquired about the purchased scope. After the call ended, Carlson told investigators that she contacted Kent, who informed her of the improper purchases.
The purchases date back to July 2018, when records show that Wyffels bought an iHome alarm clock radio for $49.99, the warrant says. As best as officials can tell, none of the items were ever turned over to the Police Department, Kent reportedly told the BCA.
A receipt for the search warrant, filed last month in Douglas County District Court, shows that authorities raided Wyffels' home on April 8 but seized only two items — an alarm clock and a calculator.
According to the city's website, Wyffels' tenure as chief of the 24-member department spanned from 2006 to his retirement last year.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064