An undercover sting captured a longtime St. Paul city employee whose co-workers grew suspicious that she was selling false insurance cards at her workplace.
Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) employee Natasha Howard, 36, was captured on hidden camera Tuesday selling a fake insurance card to an undercover agent with the Minnesota Department of Commerce Fraud Bureau, according to charges filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
Howard, of St. Paul, is charged with two counts of aggravated forgery.
“Her co-workers became suspicious when people would ask for Howard by name or stand in a longer line just to see Howard,” the complaint said. “At least one co-worker had witnessed Howard speak with people on different occasions in the lobby and then meet them near the lobby elevator where she exchanged what appeared to be an insurance card for cash.”
Howard started working at DSI in 2001, and is currently on leave from her job as a customer service specialist, said department spokesman Robert Humphrey.
Howard’s job involved assisting the public with obtaining permits and licenses at DSI, located at 375 Jackson Street in downtown St. Paul.
According to the complaint: Acting on co-workers’ suspicions, Howard’s supervisor examined her trash can at the end of the day on March 26. Howard was gone. The supervisor found several pieces of torn-up paper that had names, descriptions of cars and the cars’ vehicle identification numbers.
“The supervisor also noted that Howard kept a box of card stock paper next to her desk, although Howard’s job did not require the use of such paper,” the charges said. “The supervisor photographed these items and provided the photographs to this investigator.”
Howard’s supervisor examined her trash again on April 10 and found card stock printed with another woman’s name and an insurance policy that the insurance company later told investigators did not exist.
Agents from the Department of Commerce met with DSI supervisors on April 22. Tuesday afternoon, an undercover agent purchased a false insurance card from Howard for $60 at her workplace.
Howard was arrested that day, and denied providing anyone with fake insurance documents.