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Retired Racine County law officer accused of stealing $20,540 from union
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Retired Racine County law officer accused of stealing $20,540 from union

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RACINE — A former sergeant with the Racine County Sheriff’s Office has been charged with skimming $20,540 from the union of which he was a member.

David Coughlin, 59, was charged with felony theft in a business setting. Coughlin retired from the Racine County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 18, 2020.

The case was investigated by the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department.

The Journal Times first reported on the allegations almost a year ago, in December 2020, soon after alleged “financial irregularities” regarding the union were first coming to light.

An appointed special prosecutor will try the case. It is a common practice to have a special prosecutor instead of the local district attorney’s office in cases involving law enforcement officers.

Criminal complaint

According to a criminal complaint filed in Walworth County:

Coughlin is accused of skimming funds from the Racine Commanding Officers Association between May 2012 and December 2020 in his role as treasurer/secretary for the association. The Racine County Command Staff Association represents sergeants and lieutenants, but not rank-and-file deputies, of the Racine County Sheriff’s Office.

Concerns of theft first arose in November 2020 when a new board was elected to oversee the association and requested files from Coughlin in connection to his role as the treasurer/secretary. Coughlin did not turn over the requested records.

According to the complaint, Sgt. Aaron Schmidt, the association’s newly elected president, confronted the defendant about the records on December 13, 2020.

Coughlin allegedly said he would provide the records the next day, but he did not. Allegedly, he did not want to turn the records over to Schmidt, preferring to turn them over to Sgt. Tony Ruffalo, the newly elected treasurer/secretary.

Schmidt then contacted the association’s bank where he reportedly learned there was $412 in the account. Coughlin reported at the November 2020 meeting there was $14,000 in the account.

When confronted, the defendant allegedly said he moved the money to a different bank and would turn the records over on the following day, December 15, 2020. In the morning, Schmidt insisted that he and Coughlin go to the bank so that Schmidt could be added to the account, but Coughlin admitted he had moved the association’s money to a personal account.

Because it was a personal account, the defendant said he did not want to add anyone to it; rather, he would get a check for the association’s money. According to the complaint, while he talked about the amount of money the association was supposed to receive, the number changed from $14,000 to $15,000 to $16,000.

Allegedly, Coughlin asked Schmidt to keep the conversation between them.

John Deere executives said Nov. 3 that the company wouldn't return to the bargaining table with striking workers because it wouldn't offer a better contract than one they rejected that included immediate 10% raises.

As of Dec. 18, 2020, Coughlin’s last day on the job, he did not provide any checks to the association, the complaint stated.

According to the complaint, on Dec. 26, 2020, during an investigation into the missing money, Coughlin allegedly admitted to taking the association’s money to avoid foreclosure on his home.

A subsequent investigation involving bank records allegedly showed the defendant had deposited RCOA checks into his personal account and had further written checks to himself using association funds.

Investigators determined the defendant had taken $20,540 in association money. However, the records also show the last of the checks the defendant wrote to himself was cashed in August 2018.

Coughlin is to make his initial appearance on Dec. 7.

Representatives from the Racine County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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