Former Rusk County HHS employee pleads guilty to fraud scheme and identity theft
MADISON, Wis. (RELEASE) -Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced today that Sandra Stiner, 65, Ladysmith, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and criminal asset forfeiture.
As part of the plea agreement with the United States, Stiner agreed to waive her right to be charged by indictment by a grand jury. In these circumstances, federal charges are entered by way of an Information filed with the Court.
Stiner worked at the Rusk County Health and Human Services Department (HHS) for 42 years before retiring in January 2019. While working for HHS, Stiner misappropriated $702,351 during a nine-year time span from June 2010 to January 2019, by creating and submitting fictitious invoices allegedly from a home-based therapy company (R.Y.P.) for nonexistent intensive in-home autism services to two children.
Stiner used, without lawful authority, a means of identification of real people and real entities in an effort to create documentation that appeared legitimate and provided cover to support her fraud scheme, including taking the name and taxpayer identification number of R.Y.P., and the name of its founder, and misusing them to create a nominee bank account, nominee email account, and fictitious invoices.
At today’s plea hearing, Stiner admitted that she forged the signature of R.Y.P’s founder on various documents and IRS forms to make these documents appear legitimate to Rusk County. Stiner also admitted that she took the name of a CPA firm in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and misused it to create a fictitious letter and financial statements for R.Y.P. Stiner told Judge Conley that she created a nominee bank account on June 21, 2010 at Bank of America using the name of R.Y.P. and forged the signature of the founder on the R.Y.P. direct deposit authorization form to make sure the payments came to Stiner and not the real owner of R.Y.P. Based on these fictitious invoices, Rusk County paid $702,351 to Stiner’s nominee bank account over a nine-year period.
Stiner admitted at today’s hearing that she spent the misappropriated funds on various personal expenditures, including $295,000 in credit card payments, $200,000 in cash advances, $20,000 in iTunes charges for a gaming app called Big Fish Casino, $50,000 in retail shopping expenses, over $41,000 on her house mortgage, and over $18,000 in automobile loan payments.
The maximum penalty for the wire fraud charge is 20 years in federal prison. The penalty for the aggravated identity theft charge is a mandatory two years, which would be served consecutive to any prison term imposed on the wire fraud charge.
In the plea agreement, Stiner agreed to a criminal asset forfeiture judgment of $702,351, and potential forfeiture of substitute assets, including real estate, vehicles, boats, a camper, her pension, and household contents.
Sentencing for Stiner is set for November 4, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., before U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.
The charges against Stiner are the result of an investigation conducted by the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Graber is handling the prosecution.
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