By Shereen Siewert
STEVENS POINT — A Wausau woman will spend three years in prison for embezzling more than $700,000 over a six-year period from her Stevens Point employer.
Kristin M. Lapree, 52, was sentenced Wednesday in Portage County Circuit Court by Reserve Judge Thomas Cane. She was convicted Feb. 21 after pleading guilty 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. Lapree’s sentencing hearing July 29 in Portage County Circuit Court included prison recommendations from a presentencing investigator and prosecutors.
After Lapree is released from prison she will spend nine years on probation, per Judge Cane’s ruling, four years of which were ordered on the charge of misappropriating identification information.
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, 2018 after the business owner uncovered the thefts, more than half of which occurred in the final 14 months of her tenure with the company. Officials say Lapree 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 her own checks.
Rettler officials first confronted Lapree on Aug. 2, 2018 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, Rettler officials determined the checks were used to pay a Capital One credit account, a company that Rettler did not have an association with.
Days later two additional checks were discovered. Police say Lapree admitted forging all four checks totaling $30,535.80, then 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 investigation widened 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.
Two months after the discrepancies were detected 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 and remained free until her sentencing hearing.
Judge Cane also ordered Lapree to make monthly restitution payments, maintain full-time employment upon her release from prison, comply with a psychological evaluation and any assessments or treatment deemed appropriate by DOC agents.
The total amount of restitution was not immediately available on Wednesday.
Lapree, who has no prior criminal record, was immediately remanded into custody on Wednesday to begin her prison term and will be transported to Taycheedah Correctional Institution for processing.