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Documents question deals at lottery

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Authorities investigating former Minnesota lottery director George Andersen suspected he was involved in bribery, conspiracy and conflicts of interest, court documents show.

Search warrants unsealed Friday lay out the still-open criminal investigation into Andersen's dealings with Media Rare, a public relations firm that had no-bid contracts with the lottery. The warrants are the first public indication that investigators thought Andersen's dealings might have amounted to more than mismanagement.

The criminal investigation centers on Andersen, Media Rare founder Michael Priesnitz, and Media Rare Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Denney.

Only Denney is still alive. Andersen killed himself in January 2004, just days before a critical audit became public. Priesnitz killed himself last April on his second suicide attempt.

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After Andersen's suicide, Legislative Auditor James Noble said that while he found much to question and criticize about lottery finances, he found no criminal wrongdoing.

In the warrants, drafted in June 2004, investigators wrote there was "probable cause" to believe that the three "engaged in a conspiracy to wrongfully and illegally obtain Minnesota State Lottery funds and resources for Media Rare."

A Ramsey County judge agreed and permitted searches of Media Rare's offices and records. It's unclear whether investigators discovered anything in the searches that supported their allegations.

No criminal charges have been filed, even though Ramsey County prosecutors have had the case since May.

"We are still actively reviewing the case. There are some complicated legal issues," said Jack Rhodes, spokesman for the county attorney's office.

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