At first, Matt Erickson's business seemed like the least interesting thing about him.
In 2016, Erickson burst onto the local political scene like a urine-filled water balloon, first appearing as a surrogate/spokesman on behalf of Donald Trump's campaign. After his deeply uncomfortable appearance on TPT's Almanac, City Pages wrote about Erickson's horrendously offensive Facebook posts, several of which appeared to be his own hand-crafted memes. In Erickson's world, circa early 2016, Marco Rubio was gay; Ted Cruz was (literally) being cuckolded by Donald Trump; Barack Obama was a monkey; and Trump should shoot him in the head.
After scrubbing those posts from his Facebook profile, the weird turned pro: Erickson announced he was running for the United States House, in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, somehow topping the awkwardness of his public television appearance with a cringe-worthy 12-minute campaign announcement. (So... much... heavy... breathing.)
Erickson's against-all-odds, against-common-sense Republican primary campaign was a total failure, but was sort of fascinating to watch for a while. On his campaign website, Erickson termed himself "a man who is hot fot a fight." Specifically, against Hmong people: Erickson's biography included a lengthy description of his chasing and "trading blows" with Hmong "thieves" who had been "terrorizing the city."
Erickson also bragged about having a 152 IQ. (Maybe the powerful brain explains all those heaving breaths?) In what seemed like a minor note, Erickson said he was the "owner/founder" of Minnesota Snow Angels, a "snow management service," which we joked meant he was a "guy with a snowblower."
As of yesterday, we're not even sure about that part.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice filed criminal charges against Erickson, 30, alleging his "snow removal" business ripped off more than 100 people across eight states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. "Many of the victims are 60 years or older," reads the complaint, which says Erickson made hundreds of thousands of dollars off his victims.
According to the complaint, victims of Erickson's scam retained Snow Angels to take care of clearing any snowfall of "two inches or more" during the winter of 2017-18. And then... nothing. As one complainant told police in the town of Elm Grove, "despite several instances of snowfall of two inches or more during the months of December of 2017, January 2018, and February of 2018, Erickson/Snow Angels had not provided any snow removal services." Indeed, it seems the only thing Erickson and his company had done was cash a check from the woman's "elderly father," in the amount of $625.
The woman tried tracking Erickson down. Phone numbers on record were discontinued, and an email to firstname.lastname@example.org went unanswered; she tried going through the Better Business Bureau, which provided a number that purportedly belonged to Erickson's business. Here's how that went:
"When she called the number, it did not associate with Erickson and/or Snow Angels. It was the number of an unidentified woman in Florida who stated she had also hired Erickson/Snow Angels for removal of snow for her elderly mother in Milwaukee. The unidentified woman stated she too had paid money, had not received the promised services, and had then received a message that 'they had gone out ofbusiness.'"
That episode inspired local police to pursue a case against Erickson. The subsequent investigation unveiled a "large scale, nationwide criminal theft scheme," with Erickson as its... somehow "mastermind" doesn't feel like the right word.
An investigators' review of Erickson's bank records turned up "several large deposits" he made between Halloween 2017 and February of this year. All told, those deposits total more than $360,000.
Erickson faces three criminal theft charges -- two felonies, and three misdemeanors -- for his alleged scams in Wisconsin alone. According to a press release accompanying the complaint, Erickson was arrested on Tuesday, and "remains in custody in Minnesota, awaiting extradition to Wisconsin."
Those with more information about Erickson or his business, Snow Angels, are asked to contact Wisconsin Department of Justice investigators at (608) 266-8063.
For the rest of us, let's revisit and enjoy his absolutely batshit July 2016 campaign ad.