Sandra Stiner

A former Rusk County Health and Human Services employee was sentenced Nov. 6 to five years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identify theft. 

Sandra Stiner, 66, Ladysmith pleaded guilty to these charges on Aug. 12 and returned to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Conley on Nov. 6.

Stiner worked at the Rusk County Health and Human Service 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.

Stinter created and submitted fictitious invoices allegedly from a home-based therapy company for nonexistent intensive in-home autism services to twin boys.   

At her plea hearing on Aug. 12, Stiner admitted that she 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 a real company, it’s owner and misusing them to create a nominee bank account, nominee email account, and fictitious invoices.

Stiner also admitted that part of her fraud scheme included her forging the signature of a doctor on various home-base therapy documents and IRS forms to make these documents appear legitimate to Rusk County.  

Stiner admitted she took the name of a CPA firm in La Crosse and misused it to create a fictitious letter and financial statements for the home-based therapy company.  

Stiner told Conley she created a nominee bank account on June 21, 2010, at Bank of America using the name of the home-based therapy company and forged the signature of the doctor on the direct deposit authorization form to make sure the payments came to Stiner and not the real owner.  

Based on these fictitious invoices, Rusk County paid $702,351 to Stiner’s nominee bank account over a 9-year period.

During her plea hearing on Aug. 12, Stiner admitted 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-year sentence, which could have been served consecutive to any prison term imposed on her wire fraud charge.

Conley imposed a sentence of three years for the wire fraud charge and a consecutive two years for the aggravated identity theft charge, for a total prison sentence of five years. Conley ordered Stiner to report to prison on Jan. 6, 2021.

In imposing sentence on Nov. 6, Conley told Stiner that he has seldom seen someone whose conduct was so cynical, deliberative and longstanding. He explained to Stiner that her conduct also undermined the public trust in government institutions. Conley ended his comments by telling Stiner, “I am holding you responsible for the decisions you made.”

The charges against Stiner are the result of an investigation conducted by the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant United States Attorney Daniel J. Graber is handling the prosecution.