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A Wisconsin man faces five charges of theft after records say he tried to take advantage of people's good will. But, his alleged three county string of deception ended with the quick-thinking of a Hartford businessman.
The criminal complaint from Washington County says it started with a phone call asking for money to sponsor a softball tournament. It's a simple enough request for businesses in the springtime, a win-win as the teams get help and the business gets free advertising. But, in this case, it was a lose for the local businesses shelling out cash for a team the records show doesn't exist.
"You do things with your heart," said Tony Herrera, one of the business owners who wrote a check. "You're trying to do the right thing, trying to help out the community."
So when a man calling himself Mike Beck called Polanco Mexican Restaurant looking for a sponsor for his softball tournament, Herrera was happy to help out.
"I did think that he was being honest," he said.
According to court documents, the man wasn't who he said he was.
"Once I put the correlation together that Michael Beck was an alias of Michael Gleesing, then I knew it was the same person and I knew I was being taken advantage of," said Matt Boschae, owner of M&J Auto and RV.
The criminal complaint shows before he went to Polanco for the check from Herrera, Gleesing stopped in Hartford at M&J Auto to talk to Boschae.
"We agreed to meet with him and sponsor his team," Boschae said. "He came in the door, he says 'by the way, it's no longer 135 dollars, it's 165 dollars."
Boschae believed Gleesing's story, too.
"It sounded pretty legitimate, so I wrote him a check," he said. But, Boschae tells TODAY'S TMJ4 when Gleesing said he'd be back with a receipt, Boschae's instincts sent him to the computer. He typed in Mike Beck and found Michael Gleesing.
The I-Team checked to see if Michael Gleesing has a criminal record. We found he has charges pending in three counties, all for theft. One in Dodge County for writing a bad check, three in Dane County for soliciting money for his fake softball tournament. Boschae called the bank to stop the check.
"I was actually going to go down to the bank and see if I could confront this gentleman," he said. When Boschae got near the bank, he realized he was driving behind Gleesing. He followed Gleesing and his driver to Polanco.
"If you couldn't cash my check at the bank, wouldn't you think I'd be the first person you would call?" he wondered. "Instead, he's going to a Mexican restaurant at 11:30 while she waits in the car. He's going in for another check." Boschae picked up the phone. "That's when I called 911 and let them know I thought I was in the middle of fraud."
Washington County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Michael Gleesing in the parking lot, adding more theft by false representation to his list of charges.
"We're grateful the business owner had that gut reaction," said Capt. Martin Schulteis of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.
Herrera says a friend in Watertown believes he gave Gleesing money, too.
"He was calling and calling and calling until he got, obviously, the money," Herrera said.
Along the road from Watertown to Slinger, all three men believe there are others out there with the same story.
"I would suspect that there probably victims that even don't know that they're victims yet," Capt. Schulteis said.