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

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Transfer station employee charged


Joanne Marie Wappes, 62, of Cloquet was charged with Theft by Swindle and Theft of Public Funds, both felonies, after she was arrested on September 19.

Wappes was arraigned the following day, and made a second appearance in court on Wednesday, September 25. That appearance was continued until Wednesday, October 9.

The written complaint states:

“On July 10, 2013, the Carlton County Sheriff’s Department was made aware of a complaint regarding possible employee theft at the Carlton County Transfer Station with respect to a county employee responsible for charging and collecting fees at the gate. The employee identified as having committed the theft was identified as Joanne Marie Wappes.

“After receiving the complaint of suspicious activity the defendant’s supervisor and law enforcement retrieved video surveillance footage of the office where the defendant has worked since 1984. While reviewing the footage investigators observed clearly suspicious behavior that involved the defendant manipulating the cash register and handing out false receipts to customers, and then altering the cash register tape to reflect accurate transactions.

“A detailed and extensive investigation continued that included verification of the defendant’s elaborate scheme to manipulate the cash register tape, substituting a correct tape and then resulting in a seemingly accurate tally for each day, even though the actual number of cash paying customers who used the transfer facility was greatly in excess of the actual number of transactions on the legitimate cash register tape.

“Investigators reviewed various days of the surveillance video and, on any given day, at any given hour, the defendant could be observed manipulating the cash register using the method described to steal public funds from Carlton County.

“Investigators continued the investigation into the defendant’s finances and, through the use of administrative subpoenas and numerous search warrants, they identified numerous bank accounts owned by the defendant. Investigators also obtained information regarding the defendant’s wages from her employment though Carlton County and confirmed that she was depositing great sums of money into various accounts and CDs that greatly exceeded every penny of wages that she had earned from her sole source of income though Carlton County.

“Through the retrieval of financial documentation for numerous years prior to 2013 and including 2012, it became evident that the defendant had assets in the various bank accounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in excess to all of her wages, not even taking into account the cost of living or numerous county paychecks she never even cashed. In just one of the defendant’s bank accounts of the many she owned, her largest balance is in excess of $925,000. Although the other bank accounts have substantially less money, investigators were unable to verify any other source of income the defendant had other than her employment through Carlton County at the transfer station.

“Investigators also conducted sting operations, whereby they went to the transfer station and used marked large cash denominations to pay for their loads. Upon examining the bank bag at the end of the day, the bills used by investigators were not accounted for nor deposited into the bank account used by the transfer station.

“To date this year, the defendant had earned approximately $17,500 but has deposited in various accounts in excess of $30,000. For the year 2012, the defendant had earned approximately $28,000 but deposited approximately $45,000 in the various accounts. For the year 2011, wages were slightly more than $31,000, and deposits exceeded $36,000 in the various accounts. In year 2010, deposits were more than $10,000 than the defendant had actually earned all year. As far back as 2007, deposits exceeded the defendant’s gross income by $63,000. Additionally, financial information for other years has not yet been retrieved or analyzed but it is clear that for purposes of charging the defendant is alleged to have stolen from Carlton County in excess of the $35,000 required under Minnesota Statutes."

The Theft by Swindle charge carries the maximum sentence of 20 years and/or $100,000 fine.

The Theft of Public Funds charge carries a maximum sentence of five years and/or a $10,000 fine.


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