MINNESOTA – A man’s ego was bruised when his alter ego was charged with unemployment fraud.
Carl T. Shelton has been a road construction worker for thirty of his fifty years, working from early spring to late fall in the town of Elk River, Minnesota, an almost suburb of Minneapolis. Each year, as the weather cools, outdoor construction comes to a halt. Shelton then files for unemployment until his employer calls him back in the spring to restart the cycle.
“It’s part of the trade in these parts of the country. I can pick up work driving a plow sometimes, but I can’t depend on it.”
To pass the time, Shelton drinks and hunts and watches television. He also creates performance art.
“I’ve been doing it since I was sixteen. It’s a hobby, not a living. It’s a way to pass the time. There are only so many football games a person can watch, you know?”
For residents of Elk River, Shelton’s alter ego performance persona, Conc Rete, is a mainstay during the cold months.
“He… or it… is almost always there on the corner by the Circle K,” stated a long time fan. “He has his makeup and strange pads. He jabbers on about something or another and makes ice sculptures. It’s a great treat. We like to watch when we go in for blue slushies.”
Conc Rete has appeared indoors as well, at local talent night masquerades and open mic nights.
“He’s a storyteller,” said John Folsumdum, proprietor of The Stag Tavern. “When we do open mic night he’s always on the list. People love Conc.”
But when the name Conc Rete appeared on an unemployment insurance application this past November, red flags went up.
The unemployment insurance employee who first noticed the overlap (and wishes to remain anonymous because Ben likes to go to The Stag Tavern) said, “Same social security number, same address, but different occupation. It’s the same person no matter what anyone says. I’m a trained professional.”
Ben Graspitt, the anonymous unemployment office employee, then called Shelton, as is procedure. “When Shelton answered the phone, and then put me on hold for Conc Rete, I knew I was on to something. I elevated the complaint to the fraud division.”
Shelton is now facing a hefty fine and in an ironic twist, concrete evidence of fraud.