U of M employee charged with stealing computers, selling them


A University of Minnesota employee was charged with four counts of theft by swindle for stealing university computers worth more than $130,000 and selling them, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Michael McDaniel, 34, of Lilydale made his first court appearance last week and was released without bond on the conditions that he remain law-abiding, make all of his court appearances and stay out of casinos. His next court hearing is April 8.

According to the criminal complaint, in October, a university human resources employee noticed a discrepancy in newly purchased computers involving McDaniel. It appeared that McDaniel, who worked at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research near the university football stadium, was buying computers for his department through university bookstores but not registering them through IT.

When McDaniel was confronted, he said that in September 2017, he was assaulted outside of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. McDaniel said three robbers held him at gunpoint in a sports utility vehicle, told him they knew where he lived, where he worked and what he did, where his wife worked and where his son went to school. They told him they would be in touch and if he did what they asked, no one would be killed, the complaint states.

The robbers called him a few days later and said they wanted merchandise, so he started ordering the computers to give to the robbers, McDaniel told investigators.

The university records indicated McDaniel had used the center’s money to buy 78 computers worth $134,544 over that year. He returned two computers after he was confronted by the university employee.

Further investigation determined that McDaniel was keeping the computers and selling them on Craigslist or at pawn shops. Responding to a search warrant, Apple provided the location of the computers. Investigators contacted the owners of some of those computers and learned how they obtained them. One woman said she responded to a Craigslist ad and purchased it from a man for $800. She and her boyfriend picked out McDaniel’s picture from a photo lineup, according to the complaint. Pawnshop records showed McDaniel pawned five of the stolen computers in 2017.

A review of McDaniel’s bank records showed that every time he ordered computers, a short time later, deposits of slightly less than that were made to his accounts. For instance from Sept. 29, 2017 to Feb. 5, 2018, McDaniel ordered 13 computers worth $20,831. In that same time period, he deposited more than $20,000 into his bank account, the complaint states.

The bank records also showed McDaniel owed money to a dozen loan companies and on multiple credit cards. He also made substantial cash withdrawals at Twin Cities-area racetracks and casinos.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)