Rusk County Administrative Coordinator Andy Albarado released a press statement regarding charges in U.S. Federal Court against former county employee Sandra L. Stiner.
Stiner, who lives in Ladysmith, was employed in the Health and Human Services Department at the Rusk County Government Center for 42 years, over a period from April 1976 until her retirement in January 2019.
Stiner had 10 charges against her related to fraud that was identified by Rusk County following an investigation launched in early 2019. She was arrested on Sept. 11, 2019.
In a U.S. Department of Justice plea agreement, filed June 15, Stiner has agreed to waive indictment and plead guilty to two of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Stiner faces a maximum penalty of 22 years in federal prison or $500,200 in fines or both. She also faces four years of supervised release.
The plea agreement states Stiner agrees to pay restitution for all loses relating to the offense of conviction which amount to $702,351 resulting from wire fraud.
Documents allege between June 2010 and January 15, 2019, Stiner knowingly, and with the intent to defraud, devised and participated in a scheme to defraud the Rusk County Health and Human Services Department, and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises and by concealment of material facts.
Court documents allege Stiner misappropriated money from Rusk County HHS by creating and submitting fictitious invoices for nonexistent intensive in-home autism services to twin boys in Price County in the amount of $6,400 monthly.
As criminal proceedings have not concluded, Albarado said the county will not offer any comment on the specifics of the investigation, charges, or plea.
Rusk County will continue to support the investigation and criminal proceedings as requested, and are committed to seeing the justice system holding those responsible accountable for their actions, according to Albarado.
“The county will take all necessary steps to recover stolen property or funds from the County,” said Albarado.
At the time the alleged fraud was discovered, county officials were able to verify the fraud was no longer occurring and the suspected individual was no longer in a position to continue fraudulent activity.
Albarado said he understands this is a violation of the public’s trust and it is disappointing and unacceptable. Internal changes were already underway before the discovery of the fraud, and tighter controls have since been put in place, he added.
The county has adopted a whistleblower policy and contracted with a third party entity to receive tips and/or complaints from employees and the public regarding suspected fraud, theft, and inappropriate actions of employees.
The press release states beyond the changes that have occurred, the county is committed to incorporating additional controls to insure situations like this do not occur again and will be utilizing an outside entity to review and further investigate this fraud, and review current Rusk County processes and recommend best practices to incorporate.