Hope in the Valley founder charged with theft

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- The founder of a local non-profit was charged in Eau Claire County court Wednesday morning.

A $5,000 signature bond was set for Renelle Laffe, founder of Hope in the Valley and co-director of the Eau Claire Dragon Boat festival.

According to the criminal complaint, Laffe was using fundraising funds, totaling almost $70,000 through Hope in the Valley for her own personal use, including a down payment on her home and to pay off an RV. The complaint says she paid back almost half the money but still owes more than $36,000.

Laffe told investigators she was "a terrible bookkeeper" and would sometimes forget her personal checkbook and use the organization's checkbook instead.

Mayo Clinic Health System says it is fully cooperating with law enforcement. In a statement, Mayo says:

"While we’re not able to comment on an ongoing investigation, we had been closely watching 2019 Dragon Boat participation numbers for several months, and our decision to cancel was made regardless of any other contributing factors.

After announcing cancellation of the 2019 Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival, Mayo Clinic Health System requested Hope in the Valley to provide full reimbursement for this event. Our goal is that all teams, donors and sponsors receive refunds. If sponsors or teams have specific questions related to the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival, please send an email to euhalfmoondragon@mayo.edu.

Mayo Clinic Health System is no longer involved with Hope in the Valley, but will continue to seek out ways to be involved in the community to support cancer awareness, hope and healing.”

To read the full complaint against Laffe, click on the attached document.