Woman charged with embezzling from La Crescent schools

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

 

An Onalaska woman has been charged with embezzling money from the La Crescent School District to the tune of more than $200,000. Mary Chris Turner, 59, was in Houston County Court Thursday on charges of felony theft, embezzlement of public funds and fraud after the school’s Superintendent Ron Wilke and Business Manager Julie Holman suspected the activity and reported it to La Crescent police.

According to court records, the school was undergoing an annual audit and during a random pull for an inspection they requested to view a check that had been written using funds from the “non-public textbook fund.” They were not able to locate this check. School officials attempted to contact Turner, the district’s accounts payable clerk, several times without success until they received a voicemail from Turner, who stated that she needed to talk with Holman and Wilke.

It was then discovered that the school district’s Visa bill had been altered in several areas to cover unauthorized withdrawals made every month, court records show. It was suspected that money and expenses were moved around on paper to cover cash advances on the card, and different line items had expenses added to them to make the accounts balance.

Police made contact with Turner Oct. 3. During the subsequent interview Turner said she did not know how long the thefts had been going on, “But it had been too long,” the report states.

Turner admitted that she would take the school’s credit card and go to the ATM machine to get cash. She indicated she was a gambler and estimated she had been taking money for five to 10 years and acted alone. Turner was shown a spreadsheet showing the amount lost by the district from Jan. 22, 2008 through Sept. 24, 2012, in the amount of $202,618 and admitted that she took the entire amount.

Turner has been charged with felony theft by swindle-severity level VI, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and/or $100,000; felony theft-severity level III, 20 years and/or $100,000; embezzlement of public funds-severity level III, 10 years and/or $20,000; and financial transaction card fraud-severity level III, 10 years and/or $20,000.

Contact Emily Bialkowski at emily.bialkowski@ecm-inc.com.

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