A former Dane County sheriff’s deputy who was treasurer of his union reimbursed himself for mileage for monthly road trips that he didn’t take, skimmed money collected for union events and made purchases for himself using a union credit card, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
The criminal complaint, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, lacked a spreadsheet that was referenced at various points in the complaint, so firm figures on the amount of the alleged thefts were not available Tuesday. An amended complaint with the spreadsheet should be filed soon, said Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey.
But the complaint charged former deputy Joel M. Wagner, 54, of Sun Prairie, with one count of theft of between $2,500 and $5,000, and one count of theft by false representation of an amount between $5,000 and $10,000, both as part of recurring crimes between 2011 and May 2016. Wagner is also charged with six counts of unauthorized use of the Dane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association’s identifying information, also between 2011 and 2016.
On Monday, the union had estimated the amount stolen at about $10,000.
Wagner is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 25.
Wagner retired from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in early 2017, but union president John Cahill said Monday that questions first arose about his handling of union finances in 2016.
According to the complaint, Cahill and Wagner’s successor as union treasurer, Greg Leatherberry, asked Wagner repeatedly for financial data, including Wagner’s expense claim sheets, but were rebuffed or were told that the documents would be in a location where they ultimately were not found.
Finally, the complaint states, after becoming more insistent about getting the union’s full financial records from Wagner, Cahill went to Wagner’s supervisor at the sheriff’s office, who ordered Wagner to go home and get the records for Cahill, who met Wagner at his home.
According to the complaint:
As Cahill and Leatherberry reviewed the records, they saw that Wagner had claimed mileage for monthly trips to Manitowoc on “Cops for Kids” business, the union’s largest charity fundraiser. But Leatherberry called Joe McNeal, the owner of Encore Productions in Manitowoc, which is involved in the Cops for Kids program, and was told, “Joel and I never met in Manitowoc.” Instead, McNeal told an investigator, he and Wagner had contact by phone and email.
Typically, a bonded carrier picked up money raised for the program from businesses holding donated funds, and the carrier delivered it to Encore, which would deposit the money and write a check to Wagner.
State Department of Justice Agent Loreen Glaman also states that there was evidence that Wagner claimed mileage for use of a personal vehicle at times when he was using an assigned sheriff’s office squad car.
Glaman and Cahill also compiled a list of “suspicious” credit card purchases made using a union credit card assigned to Wagner for purchases from Shell gasoline, Lane’s Bakery, Classmates.com, various restaurants, and StubHub, for Milwaukee Brewers baseball tickets, among others.
In 2011, Wagner helped make arrangements for a memorial baseball game trip in honor of former Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Baitinger, who was killed in the line of duty while working for the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department. After accounting for expenses and money paid by participants, $497 was unaccounted for, the complaint states.
Investigators also couldn’t account for $710 that was to have been deposited into the union’s bank account after the purchase of challenge coins, commemorative coins given or traded with officers from other agencies around the country.
Glaman met with Wagner in May and showed him union bank and credit card records, expense reports and other records. Wagner offered explanations for some of the purchases made with union funds or credit cards, and some he said he simply made using the wrong credit card.
On Monday, Wagner’s lawyer, Chris Van Wagner, said that Wagner is prepared to reimburse the union for “every dime that he had taken.”
“He is exceedingly remorseful and embarrassed and knows he let his fellow officers down,” Van Wagner said.