Investigator's results put him on top of 2015 list
Business hasn't slowed much for Detective Dave Rikhus.
In the 10 months since the Post-Bulletin first wrote about the former Olmsted County Sheriff's Office investigator who came out of retirement to track cases of financial exploitation, the totals continue to build.
From March 2014 through February 2015, Rikhus was involved in 13 cases that totaled $1,357,000 stolen from vulnerable adults. The largest amount allegedly taken was $400,000; the smallest was $9,000. Taken on an average, it was more than $104,300 per case.
Since February, he's brought nine more cases — totaling more than $300,000 — to court.
Rikhus works just 14 hours a week, paid for by a grant through Olmsted County Adult and Family Services, "but it could be a full-time position or at least two part-time positions," he said.
The investigations are incredibly time-consuming; he's had cases that involved more than 4,000 pages of financial records.
Olmsted was the first county in the state to have an investigator assigned to its adult protective services; most counties have to depend on the Minnesota Department of Human Services to do the legwork.
"It's a really difficult type of investigation and one that we feel is important, no question about it," said Sheriff Kevin Torgerson. "It's best done by a very experienced investigator, which David Rikhus clearly is.
"It's a facet of our community that isn't talked about much," he said, "the folks who are being taken advantage of — in many cases, by caregivers. It's one of those silent crimes that doesn't always get reported, yet these people are terribly victimized."
The abuse in each local case came at the hands of a trusted friend, family member, caregiver or neighbor. The victims were all classified as "vulnerable" as defined by Minnesota state law, typically suffering from dementia or other mental impairment.
"Most of them don't understand what's going on," Rikhus said of the victims he has helped. "Most of my victims are in the 80- to 90-year range. They worked hard all their lives, lived pretty economically, invested well for retirement. They haven't lived a lavish lifestyle, then … "
There are two victims in these cases: The individual whose money was stolen, and the taxpayers, who have to step in and pick up the medical tab, Rikhus said. Often, that money was set aside for expenses related to long-term care for the victims.
Torgerson would love to see the area of investigations expand because the need is obvious.
"So many times, (the investigators) feel they're just scratching the surface of what's really going on out there," he said. "People know the risk is pretty high that they'll get caught, but the greed is an incredible thing to fight, to back away from."
Torgerson anticipates that "as long as David — or whoever's in that position — is producing, and there's cases to be had out there, this grant will continue to proceed."
Rikhus has accompanied county case workers to speaking engagements in an attempt to educate both the vulnerable and those around them.
"We've had Dave go with us to get the word out more," said Chandra Dennison, a social worker with Olmsted County Adult Protective Services.
It's working, she said: "People always seem to know his name."