By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

A Wausau man accused of writing thousands of dollars in unauthorized checks to himself over a five-month span appears to have reached a plea deal in his case, court records show.

Christopher S. Gustafson faces up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if he is convicted on the single charge of theft in a business setting. The alleged thefts happened between April and September 2021, when he was the chief executive officer of a health care clinic in Wausau. Gustafson is no longer an employee.

The owner and medical director of the company approached detectives in March after discovering the bogus checks, which Gustafson allegedly used to bolster his $175,000 annual salary. Company officials also accuse Gustafson of limiting payments to suppliers, increasing the company’s debt balances.

The financial allegations came to light when the company struggled to meet payroll.

Gustafson was authorized sign checks from the company’s account for expenses, but not to write checks for himself, the complaint states. According to the terms of his contract, Gustafson could not receive more than his normal $175,000 annual salary unless company leadership unanimously agreed to it, police said. 

The checks were printed by the company’s former marketing director, who later resigned, according to the complaint. There were eight checks made out to Gustafson, ranging from $5,000 to $10,028. The total amount was more than $70,000.

Company officials say Gustafson and the former marketing director were soliciting payments from clients before they were due, were not renewing contracts and were entering contracts for shorter than the normal 12-month cycle.

Gustafson was fired in February 2022. Charges were filed in six months later.

Court records show that on Oct. 25 a jury trial was removed from the calendar and a pretrial conference date has been converted to a plea hearing, signaling a deal is likely in place. Gustafson, who is free on bond, is due in court Dec. 5.