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Goodhue County deputies assist U.S. Marshals in making arrest of fugitive businessman

RED WING - A Duluth businessman who skipped town rather than show up for court a year and a half ago -- after allegedly spending almost $800,000 erroneously refunded to him by the Minnesota Department of Revenue -- was arrested at a Goodhue County campground Thursday night.

Kevin Charles Owens, 51, was taken into custody by members of the U.S. Marshals Service North Star Fugitive Task Force and Goodhue County sheriff's deputies about 10 p.m., Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Volk said. Owens was booked into the Goodhue County Jail in Red Wing awaiting transportation back to St. Louis County.

"We'd characterize the arrest as being without incident," Volk said. "There was no resistance or attempt to fight or flee."

Owens was camping with an unidentified woman, who wasn't arrested, at the Shades of Sherwood Campground in Zumbrota. Volk said he couldn't share what led authorities to find the suspect there.

Owens is charged in State District Court in Duluth with four felonies -- theft, failure to pay over state funds, failure to pay income tax and failure to file a tax return -- in connection with the missing $782,962.18.

Duluth police Sgt. Chad Nagorski has been working the case on and off for months. He got a call about 8 p.m. Thursday night from a U.S. Marshal informing him that they knew where Owens was. About 2½ hours later he learned they had their man.

"It almost became personal to me," Nagorski said. "This guy is out running around with $700,000. I started pushing the cart figuring we've got to find this guy. He's spent $700,000 and we haven't found him."

Nagorski said that work by crime analysts in his department and "old-fashioned police work by the U.S. Marshals knocking on doors and following up on leads led to the arrest.

When the criminal complaint was filed on Sept. 21, 2010, the defendant owned Owens Yacht Sales at 371 Canal Park Drive. According to the complaint:

On March 18, 2008, the Department of Revenue issued two checks made payable to Owens Yacht Sales Inc. in the amounts of $560,980.12 and $221,982.06.

The department said the checks were issued erroneously "due to human error" and "somewhat complicated internal accounting errors."

According to bank records, Owens redeemed the checks on March 25, 2008. A Revenue Department internal investigation found that the checks were inadvertently issued. Owens was notified of the erroneous refund and was repeatedly requested to return the funds or to make arrangement for payments, but he refused to do so.

"He was given a number of chances to correct the mistake, and he just made the wrong decision by not returning the money," Nagorski said.

The Revenue Department conducted an audit of Owens Yacht Sales during 2000-2002 based on information that the business had stopped filing sales, income and business tax returns despite continuing as an active business. The defendant did not cooperate with the audit process. The audit was concluded in May 2004, with a determination that no sales tax was owed and that no refund was due.

In July 2008, a Revenue Department examiner received a letter from Owens saying he intended to appeal the notices he received indicating the erroneous refunds. Owens provided no evidence or explanation for why he redeemed the erroneous checks or why he felt entitled to the money.That same month, Owens allegedly told a Revenue Department employee that he had been hassled enough by the department and that he intended to keep the money.

Bank records indicate Owens spent the entire $782,962.18 of State of Minnesota funds within several months.

The warrant for Owens' arrest was issued on Nov. 2, 2010.