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DNR officer charged over gas purchases on state card

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WILLMAR — A 47-year-old Sunburg man has been charged with felony theft related to gasoline purchases on his state-issued fleet card while working as a state conservation officer.

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James Clifford Steffen is accused of charging more gas on his fleet card than was used in the state-owned boat, all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile he used for his work with the Department of Natural Resources.

Steffen's first appearance on two felony charges of theft of public funds, plus a misdemeanor theft count, is Aug. 14 in Kandiyohi County District Court.

According to the complaint opened Wednesday in District Court, the investigation was conducted by the Wright County Sheriff's Office and found that about 435 gallons of fuel was charged to the account but not used for state purposes. A total dollar amount was not assigned.

An investigation by the DNR began when a citizen reported suspicious purchases of gasoline by Steffen at a Sunburg gas station, including when Steffen filled his state-owned work truck and numerous portable gas cans in his state-owned boat.

The DNR found that the purchases were made by using a "9999" code, which is supposed to be fuel for other equipment, such as boats, ATVs and snowmobiles. A Wright County officer found 13 unusual purchases using the code between July 18, 2010, and April 2012.

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