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Department of Commerce investigating Four Seasons Coffee

A local business owner is under investigation by the Minnesota Department of Commerce Fraud Bureau after allegedly overcharging his customers more than $4,000 from coffee sales.

Third Judicial District Court Judge Jeffrey Johnson approved the Fraud Bureau to execute a search warrant Thursday at David Nelson’s businesses, Four Seasons Coffee, at 636 E. 11th St., and office and storage facilities owned or controlled by Nelson at Four Seasons Travel, 130 W. Clark St.

“Based upon your affiant’s investigation and his training and experience, there is probable cause to believe David Nelson committed the crime of theft,” said Department of Commerce special agent Joseph Boche in the application for a search warrant.

In the searches, agents reportedly seized bank statements, tax and sales documents, month end reports, accounts payable, invoices, labels, emails and other information.

Albert Lea police requested the Fraud Bureau act as the lead investigator in the process.

Minnesota Department of Commerce Communications Director Ross Corson said charges have not been filed in the case, and he is unsure when the investigation will be completed.

Court documents state the search warrant was approved after the Minnesota Department of Commerce Weights and Measures Division received an anonymous report May 1 that Four Seasons Coffee had sold bags containing 4 1/2 pounds of coffee to customers that the company represented were 5 pounds.

On May 2, an inspector reportedly visited a business named in the complaint and met with the manager, who indicated the business had purchased 5 pound bags of coffee from Four Seasons Coffee. The bags were used by the business to brew coffee.

Ten bags at the site reportedly weighed approximately 4 1/2 pounds each.

Inspectors reportedly visited Four Seasons Coffee May 3 and noted the bags of coffee that weighed 5 pounds were packaged by a different business, LeCenter-based European Roasterie Inc.

Court documents state Nelson told an inspector the four bags of coffee in a box weighed 20 pounds, but the bags reportedly did not have weights listed, required by federal law.

Samples of 115 coffee bags reportedly revealed each bag contained 4 1/2 pounds of coffee.

Court documents state several hundred other bags were also not properly marked.

During the inspection, it was reportedly revealed in a form given to Four Seasons Coffee by European Roasterie Inc. that the packages the company ordered weighed 4 1/2 pounds. A Four Seasons employee told the inspectors that Nelson allegedly changed the size of the bags about five years ago.

In another inspection of a separate business May 7, the manager reportedly confirmed the bags of coffee they purchased from Four Seasons Coffee were supposed to be 5-pound bags. Seven bags at the business weighed approximately 4 1/2 pounds each, court documents state.

In a May 4 inspector visit to European Roasterie, the business manager said Four Seasons Coffee directed it to start packaging coffee in 5-pound bags.

Records and invoices from February through April reportedly revealed Four Seasons had not ordered any 5-pound bags.

Court documents state invoices received from European Roasterie Inc. in February showed the business shipped approximately 1,248 4 1/2-pound bags of coffee to Four Seasons Coffee. If the bags were sold for $33.25 each, customers would have reportedly been overcharged approximately $4,169.

Multiple attempts to reach Nelson were unsuccessful as of press time.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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