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Duluth woman charged with felony theft

A 40-year-old Duluth, Minn., woman has been charged with felony theft by check following recent incidents in the Bemidji and Cass Lake areas.

Barbara Beetcher Grau was charged Friday in Beltrami County District Court.

If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint:

Grau and a female friend in October came to the Cass Lake area. Grau then began writing worthless checks against her U.S. Bank checking account.

She would use the checks to purchase Visa of MasterCard gift cards, which were them taken to Western Union and Moneygram outlets in the area and pay for cash remittance.

Grau would have the cash wired to her female friend, who would collect the cash at another Western Union or Moneygram location.

Grau had written more than $1,500 in worthless checks in a matter of days at area businesses including Cenex convenience store, Target and Walgreens.

When the checks were returned to the Cenex store for having insufficient funds, management advised employees to watch for anyone attempting to pass on a check on Grau's account.

Grau and the female friend, who has not been charged, returned to Cenex on Oct. 29. Grau attempted to purchase more gift cards, but employees contacted law enforcement and she was arrested.

Grau has since confessed, according to the complaint.

Grau received five felony convictions between 2001 and 2007, including convictions for controlled substances offenses, burglary and receiving stolen property. She also was convicted of more than 12 misdemeanor-level offenses such as petty larceny, passing worthless checks and shoplifting.