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Posing as girl's stepdad lands Moorhead teen in jail

An 18-year-old is charged with a gross misdemeanor after he allegedly posed as a student's stepdad, called Moorhead High School and claimed she was sick so the girl could skip classes.

Brett Michael Van Winkle was charged in Clay County District Court on Wednesday with contributing to the need for child protection or services - a gross misdemeanor, a level of crime that can draw up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine in Minnesota.

Clay County deputies got a call from the actual stepfather - who, like the girl, was not identified in court records - at 10:33 a.m. Tuesday, according to the criminal complaint.

The stepdad told deputies that school officials contacted him after they received the call from a man claiming to be him who said his stepdaughter was ill and would not be at school that day, court records state.

After confirming he had not called the high school, the stepfather reported the stepdaughter as a runaway with the sheriff's office, the complaint states.

The stepfather also told deputies he believed it may have been Van Winkle who had posed as him, adding that the teenager had been kicked out of school for possessing a knife a couple of weeks earlier.

Questioned later in the day at the law enforcement center in Moorhead, Van Winkle admitted he'd made the fake call and that he spent the morning with the girl, Clay County deputies allege in court records.

After being booked into the Clay County Jail, Van Winkle appeared in court Wednesday morning and was released without bail.

A phone number listed for Van Winkle in court records was out of service when called Wednesday.

Jeanine Brand, an assistant Clay County attorney, said she hadn't handled a similar situation in her 16 years as a prosecutor, but the statute was the only law that fit the allegations.

Brand said Van Winkle also faces a criminal sexual conduct charge in Wright County (Minn.) involving a girl between 13 and 15 years old, a case that is still pending.