By Shereen Siewert
STEVENS POINT — A Wausau woman convicted Friday of embezzling more than $700,000 over a six-year period from her Stevens Point employer will be sentenced in May.
Kristin M. Lapree, 52, pleaded guilty Feb. 21 to 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.
Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske is recommending a prison term for Lapree under a proposed plea agreement, but Lapree’s attorney is free to argue for a lesser sentence before the judge in May.
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’s position at Rettler required her to pay business expenses, record receipts and deposit funds for the business. About half of the alleged thefts occurred in the final 14 months of her employment with the company, according to court documents.
All property seized from LaPree’s home and from the home of a Milwaukee relative for whom she was buying furniture and other items have been seized and will be sold under a Sheriff’s auction, turned into cash and paid to the victim in restitution.
Portage County Circuit Judge Thomas Flugaur ordered a presentencing investigation be completed by April 23, two weeks before Lapree’s sentencing date, which will be used to guide the judge in determining a final penalty.
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.
Rettler officials first confronted Lapree on Aug. 2, 2018 after discovering two identical checks for $9,588.90 that had cleared the company’s 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 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, police said, 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. Police also allege Lapree used an electronic file to obtain a stamp at Staples bearing the company owner’s signature to write checks.
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.
Lapree, who has no prior criminal history, faces up to 30 years in the Wisconsin Prison System and up to $55,000 in fines. She remains free on bond until sentencing.