Former Cloquet police officer charged with swindle, fraud

21 July 2023

CLOQUET The Minnesota Attorney General’s office announced that it has charged former Cloquet police officer Laci Marie Silgjord for allegedly trying to financially exploit a now-deceased 78-year-old woman who had been incapacitated by a stroke.

Silgjord, 35, left the Cloquet force in June 2022 after a complaint was filed by the estranged husband of the alleged victim in the wake of her death. Silgjord served more than seven years in uniform.

According to the complaint, Silgjord first met Joan Arney on May 5, 2020, when the elderly Cloquet woman called police to report a missing purse.

The officer returned to Arney’s residence on Aug. 5, 2020, after her half-brother had requested a welfare check. The police report indicated he was trying to reach Arney to discuss “inheritance paperwork” but had been unable to contact her.

On Aug. 25, 2020, Silgjord paid a third visit to return mail Arney had mistakenly sent to the local police station.

Silgjord and her partner found Arney on the floor. Medical authorities believe she may have suffered a stroke four days earlier. Arney was transported to the Cloquet Community Hospital and was later transferred to St. Luke’s hospital, where she would later die Oct. 28, 2020.

Medical reports indicate Arney suffered significant memory and cognitive difficulties in the wake of her stroke, including hallucinations. St. Luke’s petitioned the St. Louis County Court to appoint a guardian to oversee Arney and help direct her medical care.

Meanwhile, Silgjord visited Arney in the hospital and kept tabs on the welfare of her Cloquet home. During this time, she recorded conversations with Arney on her phone. During these visits, Silgjord appears to have gained Arney’s trust.

In a Sept. 23, 2020 recording, Silgjord called Arney her “new grandma” and told her that she loved her. Arney responded that she loved Silgjord, as well and wanted to take care of her.

At the time, the complaint says Arney did not know the year, could not recognize a photo of herself, did not know her maiden name and could not recall when her only son had died.

In another recorded conversation, believed to have also been made Sept. 30, 2020 Arney again said she loved Silgjord and wanted to take care of her family.

Silgjord would later use the recordings to lay claim to Arney’s estate, in the absence of a will.

On Sept. 11, 2020, Silgjord was appointed Arney’s legal guardian after she told the court that a social worker at St. Luke’s had asked her to serve in that capacity.

Silgjord was not appointed Arney’s conservator and should not have had access to her financial accounts but managed to gain entry to them nevertheless by allegedly misrepresenting her status to a local credit union.

When Arney died, Silgjord used money from the deceased woman’s accounts to pay for her cremation. She did not notify any of her family members, including Arney’s estranged husband, Roger Arney of Wrenshall.

Roger Arney said he learned of his spouse’s death by way of a newspaper obituary. Upon contacting the funeral home, he first learned that Silgjord had handled all the arrangements.

The Arneys had separated in 2013 but were never divorced.

Roger Arney arranged to meet Silgjord at a Perkins restaurant in November. In a conversation that Silgjord recorded, she told Arney she was “in charge” of making sure that the wishes of the woman who had been placed in her charge were carried out. She also declined to give the keys to the deceased woman’s residence to Arney when he requested them.

The complaint says Arney remains the legal heir to Arney’s inheritance by law, in the absence of a will.

On Nov. 24, Roger Arney visited the residence and encountered Silgjord there. She again refused to hand over the key to the house to him and threatened to call police. She again recorded the conversation and said she would not surrender the key “until the courts make me sign it over.”

Silgjord also said, “I have guardianship and conservatorship,” and “until the courts release me, I am still on the guardianship and conservatorship paperwork.”

In actuality, Silgjord’s role as guardian ended when Arney died and her role had never been that of a conservator.

Silgjord petitioned the court to award Arney’s estate to her own family, first laying claim to about $71,000 and then about an additional $86,000, when an inheritance from the deceased woman’s stepmother came to light.

In a letter to the court, Silgjord said she believed it was “in Joan’s best interest to donate the proceeds of her estate to build a dog park or community garden in her honor.”

The court declined those requests.

When Roger Arney registered his concerns about Silgjord with the Cloquet Police Department, it prompted an internal investigation, but the case was referred to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to avoid any potential local conflict of interest.

Silgjord now faces charges of felony and gross-misdemeanor financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of felony attempted theft by swindle.

Silgjord declined to be interviewed by the investigator who filed the criminal complaint.


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