Wyatt's Twisted Americana in Eagan, Minnesota, says that it specializes in serving "great American comfort food with a twist," which is presumably why it serves several alligator-based entrees. (It also lists a pound of gravy-covered ground beef under the dessert section of its dinner menu.)
The restaurant recently became the target of an equally puzzling crime, when an infamous local fraudster allegedly used a fake $400,000 check to buy the entire restaurant. According to the Star Tribune, Edward Stahlmann presented the owners of Wyatt's with a Bank of America cashier's check on January 9, and he "assumed control of the business, its accounts, and proceeds" before the deal was completely done.
He quickly started transferring the restaurant's money into his own bank and Venmo accounts, and withdrew its cash from ATMs. He also wrote a series of equally worthless checks to cover payroll, food and alcohol orders, and other supplies.
On January 14, the check finally bounced, and a Bank of America branch manager confirmed to police investigators that it was counterfeit. Stahlmann told the parties involved that he would meet them at the bank to work through the situation, but he never showed. Earlier this week, he was charged with three counts of check forgery for his brief stint as a restaurant "owner," and those charges became the most recent additions to his lengthy criminal history.
Stahlmann is already in jail; just over three weeks ago, he was locked up in Faribault, about 40 miles from Eagan, for paying a title services company with a fraudulent $26,000 check. He has six months left on that sentence, even before these most recent forgery charges are even considered.
In the past 16 years, Stahlmann has accumulated almost two dozen convictions for theft, swindling, check forgery and passing counterfeit checks, and filing fraudulent tax returns. He's also been convicted twice for impersonating a police officer. (In 2012, when he was arrested by the Oakdale Police Department for paying his rent with a fraudulent check, the cops quickly learned that he also had pending check forgery cases with the Bloomington and Minneapolis Police Departments, too.)
In 2016, Stahlmann wrote a guest column for the Winona Daily News while he was incarcerated in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault. He suggested that many non-violent felons eventually reoffend because their criminal records disqualify them from getting full-time jobs or suitable housing; four years later, the piece reads as both prescient and sad.
"I will admit there are individuals who leave correctional facilities with a plan of returning. However, a large percentage of us do not, and many of us never want to return," he wrote. "I am one of the individuals who wants so badly to be successful when I leave this facility. However, I’m extremely worried that I will have difficulty securing employment and housing and will end up giving up and returning to my previous activities."
Somehow, Chris Palek didn't know anything about Stahlmann's many previous convictions before selling him a restaurant.
“I believe we did try to do some searches and cover our bases,” he told the Star Tribune. “We probably didn’t do enough. He kept dragging us along, telling us he was going to do a direct deposit [to cover the cashier's check]."
Palek is back in charge of Wyatt's Twisted Americana, although he acknowledges that there was a "substantial loss of money" due to Stahlmann's five-day run as its owner. For the record, the restaurant is no longer for sale.