By Ryan Gueningsman
Thanks in part to a Delano businessman and one of his staff members, a St. Paul Boy Scout troop has recovered a trailer that had been stolen from it.
A chain of events led the trailer originally from Brinkman’s in Delano to St. Paul, where it was loaded with gear for a Hmong Boy Scout camping trip. After it was loaded, it was then stolen from a storage area in St. Paul, off University Avenue.
From there, whoever stole it had it posted on Craigslist.com, sold it to an unsuspecting buyer, who in turn, contacted Brinkman’s again to have it registered.
“The Boy Scouts special-ordered this trailer, so it’s a one-of-a-kind,” said David Brinkman of Brinkman’s in Delano.
The trailer was built with a heavier axle than normal, and because of that, the troop needed to change the trailer’s coupler. To get the trailer to the troop’s home in St. Paul, Brinkman lent them a few pieces needed for the initial transport until the change could be made.
“They still hadn’t changed it out yet when it was stolen,” Brinkman said. In the meantime, the troop had loaded the trailer with camping gear in preparation for a trip to the North Shore.
“We got a phone call from them last Thursday (Oct. 18) telling me the trailer had been taken,” Brinkman said, adding that the troop was worried about returning the equipment Brinkman lent to them to change the coupler.
“I told them not to worry about it,” Brinkman said. “They’re out a trailer. I’m just out a ball and drawl.”
Brinkman also told the troop when it was ready to purchase a trailer again, to come back to Delano and see him. For many years, scout troops from across the state have been coming to Brinkman’s because of the deal he offers non-profit organizations.
“We can’t donate trailers, but we don’t profit off them either,” Brinkman said.
Then, early last week, Brinkman’s employee Carmen Mulholland, received a phone call from a man stating he had just purchased a trailer off Craigslist.com that had a Brinkman’s decal on it, and was wondering how he could get it licensed.
“When I looked it up, I knew it wasn’t his trailer,” Mulholland said, adding that when she looked up the VIN number, it came back to the trailer that was reported stolen by the scouts.
Mulholland asked Brinkman what to do, and Brinkman had her tell the man he would need to come to Delano to Brinkman’s and fill out a form in person. The man on the other end of the line was hesitant, at first wanting the form to be mailed to a Minneapolis post office box, and also not willing to provide a phone number for himself.
“To us, it sounded suspicious anyway, Brinkman said. “I believe he knew he probably purchased something stolen.”
Normally, this type of trailer would retail for about $5,000, Brinkman said. The scouts purchased it for around $4,000, and the man bought it off Craigslist.com for $1,600.
“This was well under the value for a trailer that was less than two months old,” Brinkman said.
After the phone call from the man, Brinkman notified the Wright County Sheriff’s Office to let them know the man who apparently had the trailer that had been stolen from the Boy Scouts was going to be in Delano the following morning.
Brinkman said, at first, the sheriff’s office was going to have an officer in plain clothes wait for the man to show up, but one was not available, so a deputy remained in the area until the man arrived.
When the man arrived at Brinkman’s Tuesday morning, he told Brinkman he had met the man who had the trailer at a gas station, and all he had from him was a cell phone number and e-mail address.
“He met the guy at a gas station because he said he lived down a gravel road,” Brinkman said.
The deputy who was in the area stopped at Brinkman’s and talked to the man, who was cooperative with authorities, and told them where the trailer was located.
“I felt bad for the man,” Brinkman said. “He was out $1,600, and still in need of a trailer for his business, so I sold him a new trailer at cost.”
Brinkman said while the man was filling out the paper work for the new trailer, authorities from the St. Paul Police Department contacted the man to come in and look at a police line-up in an effort to try to identify the man who sold it to him at the gas station.
“It sounds like they have a suspect for the actual theft of the trailer,” Brinkman said.
As for the strange circle of events surrounding the trailer, Brinkman said he is glad to have played the part his business did in helping the Boy Scout troop recover it.
“We’ve all had things lost or stolen,” he said. “It’s nice to see it when people get it back. I’m just glad we could do it.”