BENSON - An ex-professional football player, formerly of Benson, Minn. is facing a criminal charge for allegedly making a fraudulent insurance claim over an AFC title ring he reported as stolen.
Brent Dwayne Griffith, 51, made his first appearance Tuesday in Swift County District Court. He is charged with one felony count of insurance fraud.
Court records said Griffith was returning from a trip to Mexico in March 2013 with his then-wife when he reported the ring missing from a shaving kit in his luggage.
Three days later, on March 21, 2013, he is alleged to have filed an insurance claim with North Star Mutual Insurance Co. The ring, which commemorated the Buffalo Bills 1990 AFC championship, was covered under his homeowners insurance policy. He eventually received and cashed a check made out to him and his wife for $4,780, according to the criminal complaint.
On July 3, 2014, his wife, now his ex, contacted North Star to claim he still owned the ring and still wore it sometimes, and that the insurance check was signed and cashed without her knowledge.
The case was turned over to the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau, which launched an lengthy investigation. In an interview as part of the investigation, Griffith's ex-wife told a special agent that she had seen Griffith wearing what looked like the ring in a Facebook photo with his girlfriend.
A search warrant was executed March 3 of this year at Griffith's home in Sartell, where he now lives, but agents were unable to recover the ring.
Because Griffith is now a traveling registered nurse and was working in St. Louis, Missouri, until mid-June, a court appearance was delayed until he was back in Minnesota.
Judge David Mennis released him on his own recognizance Tuesday. Griffith's next court appearance is an omnibus hearing scheduled Sept. 27.
His attorney has filed a motion to have the case dismissed for lack of probable cause.
Griffith, a native of Little Falls who played offensive lineman at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, played one season as an offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills when they won the AFC title in 1990. He later worked as a part-time security guard for the Minnesota Vikings and as an Eden Prairie police officer.
In 2003 he was charged in Hennepin County with fraudulently obtaining credit cards in the name of a former Vikings running back. He also was accused of stealing nearly 1,500 in game tickets.
He pleaded guilty in that case to one felony count of financial transaction card fraud, and a felony count of theft was dismissed. He served three years of probation. Minnesota court records show that the original felony conviction has since been reduced to a misdemeanor conviction under a stay of imposition.