Family sues Blooming Prairie chief and sheriff

Published 9:19 am Friday, November 8, 2013

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — A Blooming Prairie couple seek nearly $1 million in damages and legal fees, as they say the Blooming Prairie Police Chief and Steele County Sheriff searched their home without a warrant and bullied them about a muddled car sale on eBay.

Valanchie and Ashly Garcia, of Blooming Prairie, and their attorney filed a civil complaint in federal court in October.

According to the civil complaint, the Garcias said they bought a car on eBay but when they received it, it was not in the condition they agreed to in the transaction. Valanchie arranged to return the car, but the seller didn’t want to pay the costs. The complaint added Valanchie and the seller then agreed Valanchie would fix the car and split the costs; however, controversy allegedly boiled after that. Blooming Prairie Police Chief Paul Wayne was contacted the same day by the Montvale, N.J., Police and seller, who said the car was stolen.

According to the complaint, the Garcia’s said Wayne and Sheriff Greg Skillstad forced their way into the Garcia home the same day as the reported theft, pinned Valanchie to the wall and caused great emotional distress to the family. The family claims Wayne yelled at Valanchie and called him a thief, said he would be taken to jail and that his three young children were going to be placed in protective services. However, the Garcias further said Wayne wouldn’t arrest them if they later paid $3,500, that Wayne took the keys and title and Skillstad drove the vehicle to the police department.

Ashly said she gathered the sale documents and tried to show them to Wayne, who allegedly refused and threatened to arrest and charge her, as well. The complaint added Wayne told Ashly the seller wanted $3,000, but that he would try to negotiate the seller’s demands down to $2,500. Later, the Garcias’ attorney called Wayne, who reduced the demand to $2,000.

The Garcias said Ashly delivered a $2,000 check to Wayne on April 29. According to the plaintiffs, Wayne gave the keys and vehicle back and stated he “never filed a report, and it was like it never happened.”

The Garcias are suing for a total of $930,000 in damages and legal fees. Their attorney claims authorities violated the Garcias’ Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by way of home invasion and arrest and depriving their rights of liberty, property and due process of law. The lawsuit further claims state violations for intrusion, false imprisonment and defamation.