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BEST HOAX Minneapolis 1999 -

Seeing as how last November marked the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Kensington Runestone--the 202-pound slab of rock that allegedly tells the story of a Viking expedition to Minnesota in 1362--it's a fitting time to contemplate the state of hoaxes in Minnesota. Alas, we have suffered a lamentable dearth of inventive fakes in recent years. But there are signs of an upswing. Take the dark and pathetic tale of Janell Two Feathers Welch, a 44-year-old Rosemount mother of four who disappeared from a Burnsville shopping center last September. When she finally turned up nearly two months later, the bedraggled Welch told investigators she'd been snatched from the Target parking lot, drugged, and held captive by a Florida-based prostitution ring. A two-week investigation by the Burnsville Police Department revealed that Welch had run off with a Texas electrician whom she'd met in an Internet chat room. (This was also news to her husband of 25 years, who'd fallen for the abduction story hook, line, and sinker.) The case was cracked after police discovered that Welch had been fired from a previous job for unauthorized use of long-distance phone service. Those calls, they learned, were to the Internet lover in Amarillo. After pleading guilty to falsely reporting a crime, Welch was sentenced in March to 20 days in jail and 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay the Burnsville Police Department $5,800 in restitution--the investigation costs incurred after Welch got back home and filed a false police report. No one ever said hoaxes were cheap.

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