JUNEAU - A former treasurer of Wings Over Wisconsin is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 from the organization over a four-year period.
Leonard V. Lauth, 56, of Beaver Dam made an initial appearance in Dodge County Circuit Court Monday on a charge of theft in a business setting.
Headquartered in Mayville, Wings Over Wisconsin (WOW) is a non-profit group comprised of 20 chapters that promotes land conservation throughout the state. Lauth had been affiliated with the group for more than 24 years. He served as treasurer/secretary of the Beaver Dam chapter before he was removed in November.
An internal audit conducted by WOW officials found that $16,875 had gone missing from the accounts Lauth had been overseeing since 2005, according to a criminal complaint.
A complaint says when Beaver Dam Police Lt. Joel Kiesow confronted Lauth with the information. He initially denied taking unauthorized funds from the group. But Lauth went on to admit that medical expenses had taken its toll on his family, and said, "Maybe I was robbing Peter to pay Paul on different things."
Lauth said he may have used funds from WOW to balance books of another non-profit organization for which he had served as treasurer. He claimed he sometimes got the two group's finances mixed up and that the pressure was overwhelming.
The complaint says Lauth told Kiesow he though he had taken about $788 from the group for personal expenses over four years. He was reportedly shocked to learn the figure may be as much as $16,875.
Kiesow reported finding lax accounting practices within WOW that may have enabled Lauth to take that much money. WOW protocol states that two chapter officials have to sign a check before it can be cashed. However, Kiesow found that group officials routinely signed blank checks trusting that Lauth would use them to pay bills or expenses.
The complaint says that Lauth would sometimes write the checks out to himself. In one instance Lauth wrote a check to himself for $385. But in the ledger he wrote that the check had been made out for $85 for office supplies.
The complaint says Lauth also took cash from WOW's fundraising banquet without permission. There was a $2,662 discrepancy in 2009 that he was unable to account for.
Group officials reportedly told Kiesow that Lauth would take home envelopes filled with $20,000 to $40,000 in cash following the banquet. He was supposed to count and deposit them into a bank account.
Lauth will return to Dodge County Circuit Court for a preliminary examination at a later date.