Friday, July 15, 2011

Minnesota Prosecutors Invoke Seldom-Used Law To Charge Office Building Owner In Foreclosure With Removing/Damaging Property Subject To Mortgage

In Anoka County, Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports:

  • With his building under foreclosure, Donald Mordal decided to take some items that he says belonged to him.

  • Now, he's facing criminal prosecution, only the second person charged in Anoka County in the past 25 years under a 1963 state law. The law makes it a felony to remove or damage property subject to a mortgage with intent to hurt the property's value. It is so rarely used that officials in the Hennepin and Ramsey county attorney's offices couldn't recall prosecuting anybody under it.


  • Mordal, 44, was charged in March with "defeating security on realty." Prosecutors said he wasn't charged with a more common felony theft crime, which requires intent to take someone else's property and deprive them of it. Technically, he owned the property he is alleged to have taken illegally.

  • Mordal, who has nothing more than a speeding ticket on his record, was stunned when he learned of the charge. Potential jail time is now piled atop the foreclosures of his business and house, along with unemployment and a divorce.


  • According to the charges against Mordal, the bank contacted law enforcement in May 2010 when it learned he had removed items and allegedly damaged property just before the sheriff's foreclosure sale.(1) He says he had removed the items months earlier.

  • Aleesha Kveton-Webb, vice president of special assets for Village Bank in Blaine, said the bank's four branches in Anoka County work hard to improve local communities and that they have to protect customer's assets. The bank could have "just left this at foreclosure" and not pursued criminal charges, but "we want to make a point that this shouldn't happen to other banks."

For the story, see Nowthen businessman faces rare charge in foreclosure (Under a seldom-used law, he is accused of illegally removing items from his office building).

(1) See State v. Zacher, 490 NW 2d 149 (Minn. App. 1992) for an example of one property owner who successfully scored a reversal of a conviction of this charge where the property was taken after the sheriff's foreclosure sale had taken place (owner removed the fixtures one day before the end of the statutory six-month redemption period).

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