By Shereen Siewert
STEVENS POINT — A Wausau woman accused of embezzling more than $473,000 over a six-year period from her Stevens Point employer will make an initial appearance next week in Portage County Circuit Court.
Kristin M. Lapree, 50, faces felony charges of theft in a business setting greater than $100,000; forgery; fraudulent writings by a corporate officer; and misappropriation of identification information to obtain money. Police say Lapree, who was the business manager at Rettler Corp. in Stevens Point, began siphoning money from the business in December 2012, about nine months after she was hired.
Lapree was fired Aug. 6 after the business owner uncovered the alleged thefts, more than half of which occurred over the past 14 months. She was responsible for paying business related expenses, recording receipts, and preparing and depositing funds for the business during her tenure with the organization.
According to the criminal complaint, Lapree illegally accessed the business owner’s electronic signature to write checks she used for her own personal use. Lapree allegedly wrote checks to herself and to her credit card company to pay for furniture, rent, travel, clothing, groceries, restaurant charges and other expenses. In a few instances, checks were made payable to entities that were not business-related but were associated with Lapree, the complaint states. Police say Lapree used an electronic file to obtain a stamp at Staples bearing the company owner’s signature to write checks.
Rettler officials first confronted Lapree on Aug. 2 after discovering two identical checks for $9,588.90 that had cleared the business’ account one day prior. Initially, Lapree said she had mistakenly paid the business’ credit account twice. But the company owner later realized that monthly statements Lapree offered as part of her explanation were falsified, an attempt to conceal what was truly happening, according to court filings. After reviewing the bank’s images of the checks in question, Rettler officials determined the checks were allegedly used to pay a Capital One credit account, a company that Rettler did not have an association with.
Then on Aug. 8, two additional checks were discovered and Lapree allegedly admitted forging all four checks totaling $30,535.80. Days later, Lapree emailed Rettler’s owner, offering to pay restitution for the checks along with attorney fees, accountant fees and interest using her funds from a 401K account.
But the situation changed after company officials received word that a Capital One Fraud Department investigation revealed 33 payments from June 21, 2017 to Aug. 1, 2018 totaling more than $240,000.
On Oct. 9, police obtained a warrant to search Lapree’s home in the 1700 block of Green Vistas Drive in Wausau and seized furniture, purses, clothing and other items identified as being purchased using the Capital One account. Lapree was arrested and taken to the Portage County Jail. She was released one day later on a $25,000 signature bond.
Police say the amount of the alleged theft could increase to more than $500,000 as the investigation continues.
Lapree, who has no criminal history, is due in court Monday for an initial appearance on the charges. She faces up to 30 years in the Wisconsin Prison System and up to $55,000 in fines if she is convicted on all four counts.