Carlton County woman charged with theft from townshipA Carlton County woman is charged with three felony counts of theft by swindle for allegedly submitting false claims for reimbursement while serving as Atkinson Township Board supervisor.
By: Mark Stodghill/Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
A Carlton County woman is charged with three felony counts of theft by swindle for allegedly submitting false claims for reimbursement while serving as Atkinson Township Board supervisor.
Traci Ann Juntunen, 40, of Mahtowa has been summoned to appear in court Monday to be arraigned on the charges. She’s accused of submitting false claims of $300 for an Energy Efficiency Small Grants Program, $250 for blueprints for a new township building and $50 for driving to a meeting with an architect.
The crimes are felonies because they involve public money.
Juntunen denied any wrongdoing during a phone interview Monday.
“I have not spoken to one person on that board since Dec. 14,” Juntunen said. “They never asked me about anything. It will all be cleared up. It’s such an extreme waste of taxpayer money for a vendetta.”
Juntunen said the “vendetta” was the result of her support to build a town hall while some other supervisors opposed the building.
But according to the criminal complaint, Juntunen admitted to a Carlton County Sheriff’s investigator that she manufactured a false receipt for blueprints. When asked about her statement to the investigator, Juntunen admitted that she has the $250 for the blueprints and intends to turn it back in. But she hasn’t been to a meeting to do that, she said.
Juntunen was elected to the Atkinson Township Board in March 2007 and served until her resignation was accepted on Feb. 8 of this year. During 2009, some of Juntunen’s claims for reimbursement were questioned, leading to an investigation by the Minnesota Auditor’s Office and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler asked the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office to review the case for a charging decision because of a conflict of interest in his office. Carlton County victim witness coordinator Todd Milosevich, who works in Pertler’s office, was on the Atkinson Township Board at the same time as Juntunen.
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Leslie Beiers, who heads her office’s criminal division, filed the complaint against Juntunen.
“The state auditor did a fairly comprehensive review and forwarded the reports to the sheriff’s office,” Pertler said. “It’s the public’s money. We’ve got to hold our public officials to higher standards.”
Pete Radosevich, Juntunen’s defense attorney, thinks it more likely that bookkeeping mistakes were made rather than a crime committed. “Falsifying something out of whole cloth seems pretty unlikely for Traci Juntunen,” Radosevich said.