2 Iowa men arrested in large-scale theft sting

NEVADA – State officials said Saturday that they uncovered a large-scale theft and money laundering operation involving a former Iowa Department of Transportation employee, who has been arrested along with another man.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, David Weigel, 56, of Nevada, Iowa, and Grady Marx, 59, of Sioux City, were arrested Saturday after state, local and federal authorities executed search warrants at four locations in three counties in central and western Iowa.

Weigel and Marx are charged in warrants with theft, conspiracy to commit theft, money laundering and criminal conduct. Weigel, who worked as a right of way agent for the state Transportation Department from 1995 to 2011, is also charged with felonious misconduct in office.

The investigation began in July 2011, when Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino asked the Department of Public Safety to look into suspicious activity involving land sales, land leases and mowing contracts for department land.

According to court affidavits, the investigation was prompted by information from an Iowa man who told authorities that Weigel authorized thousands of dollars in checks to be paid to him for the purchase of seed, fertilizer, disking and other items to farm on Iowa right of way land as part of a “crop-sharing” program. The man would repay the investment after harvest, making the checks out to Weigel.

But the Iowa Department of Transportation does not offer a crop-sharing program.

Further investigation showed that Weigel on numerous occasions quoted prices for department land to people who wanted to buy or lease it. He would then have those people write two checks to cover the total amount – one to the department and another to him, which he deposited in his own account, investigators said. Weigel is also accused of paying Marx and a woman thousands of dollars in state money for mowing public land that they did not mow, then getting some of money back, which he deposited in his personal accounts.

Investigators say Weigel fraudulently collected nearly $240,000 in money that should have gone to the state.