In late November 2023, we received several emails from readers who asked if a rumor was true that Facebook users had been copying, pasting and reposting on their profiles and in groups. That rumor claimed that abductions had occurred at Kwik Trip convenience stores involving an "Arab woman" who requested help pumping gas, an accomplice and a van or other vehicle with tinted windows.
Kwik Trip is based in Wisconsin and operates hundreds of stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The same company also goes under the similar name of Kwik Star with locations in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota.
In short, this rumor was false. Not only did we uncover no evidence of such crimes ever occurring as described, but we also found a legitimate report of a crime at a Kwik Trip location that occurred days before the oldest known posting of the rumor. That crime involved a suspect who appeared to be a white man, not an "Arab woman." It's possible that that crime may have inspired a dubious user to create the racially charged claim about the "Arab woman," the accomplice and the van.
We reached out to Kwik Trip to ask about this rumor and will update this story if we receive a response.
The 'Arab Woman' Rumor
The oldest version of the rumor that we found in a search of Facebook was posted on March 27, 2022. It was shared over 7,500 times:
The post read as follows:
ABDUCTIONS TAKING PLACE AT KWIK TRIPS!!!
Usually near highways. It's an Arab woman claiming to need help pumping and has a van or vehicle with tinted windows. When the person (normally a woman of ANY age) gets close to the vehicle, someone inside the vehicle jumps out and grabs the female, and they drive off.
Please pass this on and keep everyone informed. A gal my aunt knows was lucky enough to get away. They even do this to the elderly. No one is safe. There's been several reports at Andover, Anoka, and now St Francis.
Via Messenger, we asked the user who posted the rumor if they wrote the original post. In response, they told us that they had copied and pasted it from somewhere else.
Andover, Anoka and St. Francis
The post with the rumor specifically mentioned "several reports" of abductions at Kwik Trip locations in three cities in Minnesota: Andover, Anoka and St. Francis. Other versions of the post mentioned different towns.
Three days after the March 2022 post was made – a time long before late November 2023 – the St. Francis Police Department in Minnesota responded with a post of its own and said that, despite what Facebook users were sharing, it had received no such reports of abductions at Kwik Trip convenience stores.
As for Andover and Anoka, a spokesperson for the Anoka County Sheriff's Office told us by phone that they, too, had also not received any reports of abductions at Kwik Trip locations. (The Anoka County Sheriff's Office has jurisdiction over both towns.)
The Crime That May Have Inspired the Rumor
If there was no evidence of the rumor involving an "Arab woman" and an accomplice abducting people at Kwik Trip convenience stores, then where (or why) did the claim originate?
The answer to that question might be found by looking at local news reports from earlier in March 2022.
According to the Kanabec County Times, on March 12, 2022, a 22-year-old man named Jesse James Niesen, who appeared in his mug shot to be white, was arrested by officers with the Kanabec County Sheriff's Office after allegedly grabbing a young girl in a women's bathroom at a Kwik Trip convenience store in Mora, Minnesota. Niesen denied touching her and claimed he may have accidentally used the women's bathroom, the reporting said. (We emailed the Kanabec County Sheriff's Office to request records from this case and will update this story if we receive further pertinent details.)
Three days later, Niesen was charged with "one felony count of kidnapping, one felony count of false imprisonment and one misdemeanor charge of fifth degree assault," according to the Times.
Months later, a September 2022 report on the status of Niesen's case said that he had entered an Alford plea. (Cornell University's Legal Information Institute (LII) defines an Alford plea as a situation in which a defendant registers a formal admission of guilt towards charges in criminal court while simultaneously expressing innocence toward those same charges.)
In other words, Niesen was arrested for allegedly kidnapping a person at a Kwik Trip just 15 days before the oldest known posting of the false rumor that claimed an "Arab woman" and an accomplice were basically doing the same thing at the convenience-store chain.
It's unclear if the report of the crime truly did inspire the creation of the false rumor, but the timing and similar circumstances certainly might indicate that it did.
Facebook Users and Trafficking Rumors
In past years, we've seen our fair share of these sorts of abduction and kidnapping claims being endlessly copied and pasted on Facebook. Such rumors often lead users to believe that the story described must have involved some sort of human trafficking and perhaps sex trafficking. For example, online users have claimed in the past, without providing evidence, that trafficking was involved in various situations where they said they stumbled upon various objects attached to or found near their cars, including sunglasses, zip ties, blue tape laced with fentanyl, water bottles, discarded shirts and just about any other object a person could think of.
Once the users who reposted these sorts of rumors were asked by other commenters about why they posted such evidence-free claims, the response was usually some form of pushback rather than an acceptance and apology for posting unsubstantiated "scarelore" stories.
In the case of the Kwik Trip-abductions rumor, one user who reposted the claim in late November 2023 was asked by a commenter about its veracity. The user responded not with a correction, but rather pushed back with, "True or not, we should all be more aware of our surroundings." In other words, the post was not removed. It remained available on Facebook with the claim about the Kwik Trip, the "Arab woman" and the abductions, despite a complete lack of evidence and despite the fact that the rumor was a few months away from being at least two years old.
Aside from the "Arab woman" rumor, we found several other links that were relevant to this subject, including some past news articles regarding Kwik Trip convenience stores and attempted abductions.
In 2004, the Post Bulletin website reported about a possible kidnapping attempt of a 7-year-old boy while he and his father were parked at a Kwik Trip gas station in Rochester, Minnesota.
In 2012, a report said that a woman was carjacked and abducted, then later released, at a Kwik Trip location in Sparta, Wisconsin. However, the abduction did not occur at the convenience store.
In 2014, the Necessary Fiction website posted a fictional story titled, "Abduction at the Deluxe Kwik-Trip Pump."
In 2015, FOX6 News Milwaukee reported about a woman who said she escaped from an attempted abduction while a kidnapper was parked at a Kwik Trip gas station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. However, again, the initial abduction occurred elsewhere.
In 2018, the Shawano Police Department in Wisconsin posted on Facebook that, despite what Facebook users were sharing, they had received no reports that said a man had approached a young person at a Kwik Trip in the town, nor was there evidence that the man had planted a tracking device on the child.
In 2021, Wisconsin's WEAU 13 News reported that a man, who in his mug shot appeared to be white, was arrested for allegedly attempting to kidnap three women at three different locations. One of the attempted kidnappings occurred at a Kwik Trip in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
On Nov. 21, 2023, just days before the initial publish date of this fact check, the Minnesota-based St. Cloud Times published an opinion piece about a similar rumor. That other rumor was also making the rounds on Facebook and claimed that "QuikTrip and/or Kwik Trip are emergency safe places" and that the convenience stores have "safe rooms" for victims to hide in while waiting for help from law enforcement. According to the reporting, there's no truth to that rumor, either.