Charges: Drug task force commander falsified timecards, spent work hours on Facebook, Zoosk

(Olivia, MN) – The commander of the Brown-Lyon-Redwood-Renville Drug Task Force has been accused of falsifying his timecard reports and attending to his personal business while pretending to be on the job.

Jeffrey Michael Morris, who was also a Renville County deputy, was charged in Renville County Court with two counts of felony theft by swindle.  Morris, who is 40-year-old, and lives in Hutchinson, also faces a charge of misconduct of a public officer, a gross misdemeanor.

According to a criminal complaint, the Renville County Sheriff began an internal investigation of Morris under suspicions that he had not worked the hours he had claimed on his timecards between August 2019 and March 2020.  The Stearns County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the investigation.

Morris had an official vehicle equipped with a radio that activates when the vehicle is turned on, according to the complaint.  Investigators found that there had been no radio contact during the month of February 2020, and many other days that Morris claimed to be working.

GPS data from a cellphone that Morris used for personal and work use showed that he often did not leave his home in Hutchinson on days when he claimed to be working, according to the complaint.

Investigators also examined Morris’ department-issued MacBook, and found that documents had never been accessed or created.  A search also determined that the bulk of Morris’ internet activity was on Facebook, or on the dating site Zoosk.  The complaint also says that the computer was never set up with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which indicated that Morris had never reviewed or created reports during times he claimed to be working.

Police say that Morris also neglected to work with his own confidential informants during the investigation period, nor did he make any entries into a system that tracks those informants.  Not only that, but investigators found that Morris did not apply for a single warrant between March 2 and March 16 in the counties covered by the drug task force he commanded.

Police provided two specific examples of Morris’ personal activity when he claimed to be on the clock:

In November of 2019, investigators say Morris claimed eight hours of work, but left his home before 11 a.m. to drive to South Dakota for deer hunting.  About a week later, he apparently received 31 text messages, all personal.  GPS data showed Morris left Hutchinson to go to Nicollet and New Ulm to drop off meat for deer processing.  He claimed eight hours on his timecard that day, police say.

The second specific example provided on the complaint said Morris declined to attend a meeting on an investigation in March 2020, saying he had to assist with a warrant in Lamberton.  Police working the Lamberton warrant execution told investigators Morris had declined to help with the Lamberton warrant, claiming he was executing a different warrant in Franklin.  Police found the Franklin warrant was denied and never executed.   Morris claimed eight hours on his timecard that day, but police said he worked two hours at most.

The complaint says that Morris reported a total of two hundred fourteen hours between August 16, 2019, and January 27, 2020, but actually worked approximately 47 hours, a discrepancy of $7,054.01.  Morris is also accused of asking his supervisors to submit false timecards on his behalf on at least a dozen occasions.

Morris allegedly reported 42 hours worked between Feb 10 and Mar 2, but actually worked eight hours, according to the complaint.  He was paid $1,384.96 for work he didn’t perform, according to the complaint.

The complaint says Morris was earning $41.89 per hour in 2019, and $43.28 per hour in 2020.

Morris’ first court appearance is scheduled for Nov 4 at 9 a.m.

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