County officially severs its relationship with employee accused of theftThe long-time Carlton County transfer station employee accused of swindling the county out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has officially been terminated by the county.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The long-time Carlton County transfer station employee accused of swindling the county out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has officially been terminated by the county.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Human Resources Director Dennis Genereau said Joanne Wappes, 62, was terminated from employment with Carlton County on Oct. 3, adding that no grievance has been filed challenging the termination since that time.
Wappes is facing charges of theft of public funds and theft by swindle after security camera videos at the transfer station showed Wappes manipulating the cash register and handing out false receipts to customers.
The county was made aware in March that there was a possible financial impropriety taking place at the transfer station. The administration placed the security cameras at that time and began to conduct a thorough investigation.
After gaining search warrants, investigators identified numerous bank accounts owned by the defendant and obtained information regarding her wages, and confirmed 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 through Carlton County. Additional “piles of money” were located in Wappes’ home, according to County Attorney Thom Pertler, adding that the total figure of all funds could amount to over a million dollars.
In Genereau’s statement on Wednesday, he said the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office has been working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on the criminal aspects of the Wappes case and indicated the case has now been turned over to the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office for prosecution in light of the fact that Wappes was a Carlton County employee.
Wappes appeared in Carlton County Court on Wednesday afternoon for a continued Rule 8 hearing with her newly retained attorney, Douglas Voigt Hazelton, at her side. Hazelton hails from the Halberg Criminal Defense firm of Bloomington. Representing the prosecution at Wednesday’s hearing was St. Louis County Criminal Division Head Gary Bjorklund, who explained that the chief prosecutor for the case will be Karl Sundquist of Hibbing, who was unable to attend the hearing.
Both attorneys informed Judge Robert Macaulay that they would need considerable time to go over the discovery in the case and asked for a further continuance of the Rule 8 hearing. Hazelton indicated that Wappes has waived her right to a hearing within 28 days, and Macaulay set Wappes’ next court date for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 31. Macaulay indicated that he plans to set aside a significant amount of time for the hearing on that date, explaining, “We’re not sure just what that hearing will bring.”
In the meantime, Genereau said, the county continues to review its procedures for the handling of cash transactions.
“In addition,” he stated, “the county is reviewing all of its options for recovery of stolen funds and will seek restitution in the criminal proceedings.”