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Oakdale business owner arrested while trying to flee to China
Stephanie Lasch accused of identity theft
Stephanie Rae Lasch, 35, of East Bethel was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at approximately 7:15 a.m. Thursday, April 10, just minutes before a plane she and her husband were on departed for China.
She was transported by police to the Anoka County Jail and charged with felony identity theft the following day.
According to an Anoka County criminal complaint, Lasch and husband Shawn Lasch had booked one-way tickets to Beijing with no plans to return. Police allege she had even made arrangements with a company to vaccinate and ship her dogs to China at a cost of $10,000.
She was the owner of the now closed BARE The Spa & Soap Bar Company, which was located at 1077 Helmo Ave., just east of Tenth Street and Interstate 694 in Oakdale. She also owned a Lino Lakes store, Stonewater Massage and Skin, which closed in February.
Lino Lakes police said they had been investigating Lasch for months. According to the criminal complaint, the police department had received numerous financial transaction card fraud reports involving Stonewater Massage between December 2013 and February 2014.
Investigators said they also discovered that Lasch was $8,000 behind in her rent for the Stonewater store and was not able to make payroll. Store employees reportedly told police they had received “hundreds of calls” from customers complaining about erroneous charges on their credit card accounts.
Lino Lakes detectives examined financial records on Stonewater’s computer system and reportedly found numerous fraudulent charges to customers’ accounts, mostly in the amount of $64.28 -- the price of an hour massage, including tax.
So far investigators contend they have identified over 80 victims who were swindled by Lasch, and they’re reaching out to many other customers who claim to have been charged for services they did not receive at Stonewater.
Oakdale store abruptly abandoned
BARE The Spa & Soap Bar Company had a short run in the city. Oakdale police investigator Wayne Hager said he believes the business was only in operation from November of 2013 to late January of this year. The spa offered massages, facials, waxings and other services and sold a variety of skincare products and handmade soaps.
Hager said Lasch initially applied for a massage license to practice massage therapy with the city, but withdrew her application shortly thereafter.
“All she should have been doing there is selling soaps and other items that you don’t need a license for,” Hager said.
But that was not the case, according to Kim Prayfrock of Maplewood, who came in for a massage from Lasch last December.
“It was right before Christmas and I had a massage. She was really great and nice.”
Prayfrock purchased a $100 gift card good for a $250 package on that first visit. She later made an appointment online for another massage in mid-January.
“I kept calling, calling, calling and I finally got a hold of her, and she told me she had had a miscarriage and she would get back to me,” Prayfrock recalled. “Well the next week I went up there and the whole store was closed down, and she never got back to me.”
Prayfrock said she filled out a fraud form with her credit card company and was later reimbursed for the $100 taken from her account.
“You think you know people, but you never really do,” she added.
Hager said he went to make contact with Lasch at the Oakdale store after a request from the Lino Lakes Police Department in late January.
When Hager arrived at the storefront, he said he peered into the windows and noticed the shop was mostly cleared out -- just a few items and shelving remained. He said his department has not received any record of sales.
Hager said, so far, no charges have been filed against Lasch in Oakdale. In fact no charges have been filed against her anywhere in Washington County.
An online court records search yielded no results of Lasch having a criminal record. However, she reportedly was arrested twice in Mankato in 2010 for felony charges of identity theft, but was later released.
Dr. Fred Carpenter owns DDS Orthodontics clinic next door to the space once occupied by BARE The Spa & Soap Bar Company. He said he remembers Lasch opening up the store sometime in November and by late January she had removed anything of value from the shop.
“At first there were some masseuses just standing around and then she started making soap, he said. “We couldn’t figure out what she was doing over there, because it wasn’t massages. It was really strange. She was here for two months and then ‘poof’ gone.”
Carpenter said he would sometimes see a toddler running around who presumably was Stephanie and Shawn Laschs’ child. He added that she told staff at the dental clinic that she was pregnant.
He said he was glad to see her go, because her office was “a mess,” which didn’t reflect well on his clinic next door. He asserted that Lasch left in the middle of a lease without paying.
“She stuck the landlord pretty good.”
A phone message to the building owner requesting comment was not immediately returned.
At press time, Lasch was still in custody at the Anoka County Jail on charges of felony identity theft involving eight or more victims. The court ordered $150,000 in unconditional bail, but would reduce it to $100,000 if she surrenders her passport. If convicted, Lasch could serve a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or $100,000 in fines.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at email@example.com or 651-748-7822.