Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Wappes sentenced for theft by swindle

 


Joanne Wappes, 63, of Cloquet was convicted of theft by swindle and sentenced on Friday, March 20 by Judge Robert Macaulay Jr. in Carlton County Court.

Wappes had been an employee of Carlton County at the Carlton County Landfill and transfer station for 30 years until September 2013, when she was arrested and charged with two counts of theft.

The second count, embezzlement of public funds, was dismissed by Judge Macaulay.

At the sentencing, Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau told the court how the actions of Wappes affected the relationship between the public and all county employees.

“I am speaking on behalf of the Carlton County Board (of Commissioners),” said Genereau. “It is hard for me to speak on behalf of all of the residents of Carlton County.

“The impact of her actions go beyond the zoning office (her superviser), they affected all Carlton County residents.

“Her actions created a very stressful and difficult situation for the county employees that provide service to the public. People need to trust in what we do. They need to know they are treated fairly and honestly.

“Her actions affect that trust. The employees have put forth their best efforts. This situation has tarnished that. The public takes this very seriously. People are angry; they feel they have been mishandled. They want a resolution to this matter.”

Douglas Hazelton, attorney for Wappes, pointed out the count of theft by swindle states the theft is in excess of $35,000.

“She has confessed to that,” he added. “Nobody knows how much was taken ... She thinks it is around $80,000. Based on her account balances, she believes the bulk of the balances were her inheritance. She had inherited her home from her parents and a substantial amount of money.

“She agreed to $1 million because she doesn’t want to go through a civil suit. She wants to put it all behind her.”

Hazelton went on to point out Wappes has had no prior criminal record, and has already suffered a “huge retribution.”

“She agreed to give up a huge amount of her inheritance,” he added.

Judge Macauley stated the funds in the account with the largest balance were in excess of $943,000, and cash that had been found in a search were being held by the sheriff’s office.

When given the chance to speak, Wappes repeated her attorney’s words.

“Most of the funds in the credit union accounts are my inheritance,” she said. “Those have nothing to do with the county.”

Judge Macaulay agreed the large amount of restitution, reached in a plea agreement, would end any civil cases that could be brought against Wappes.

He sentenced Wappes to the prison in Shakopee for 21 months but stayed the prison term for five years. Wappes will be on probation for five years and will have to report to the probation officer on a regular basis and will be required to follow all state and federal laws. Wappes was given credit for six days she served in the Carlton County Jail.

Wappes must pay $1 million in restitution and a $500 fine plus $85 in fees. She will have to undergo a mental health assessment, and abstain from alcohol or mood-altering drug use.

 

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