Athens woman charged with taking $500,000 from business - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Athens woman charged with taking $500,000 from business

WAUSAU (WAOW) – A 40-year-old Athens woman was charged Friday with stealing about $500,000 from the business where she worked for nearly two decades, including as a vice president.

The woman told investigators she has a "huge credit card problem," a criminal complaint said.

Michelle Walters was charged with seven counts of felony theft of more than $10,000. A criminal complaint said the money was taken from Northwestern Wisconsin Association of Wausau through a scheme involving unauthorized checks dating back to at least 2006.

"The amount stolen so far is over $500,000," the complaint said.

Walters told investigators "she has a huge credit card problem," and she spent the money on "little things" like clothes for her children and husband, the complaint said.

Walters, who was Northwestern's vice president of administration late last year when the investigation began and worked for the company for nearly 20 years, made her first court appearance Friday. A judge set a $100,000 signature bond. Her attorney waived the time limit for a preliminary hearing and a pretrial conference is scheduled for July 1.

Walters and her attorney declined comment Friday.

The criminal complaint said Northwestern Wisconsin Association performs accounting and administers corporate retirement plans.

The complaint documented incidents where Northwestern checks were written by Walters, signed by Walters and endorsed by Walters.

According to the complaint, Walters admitted to company executives that she took the money and she worked out a "demand note" with the company to repay $502,000.

The complaint said a company executive asked Michelle what she did with the money. "He said she told him that she's not right in the head and she has a spending problem," the complaint said.

Court records said Northwestern paid Walters $88,000 in salary and wages in 2011.

In January, Walters told police she was putting her house up for sale to repay Northwestern and had found a new job earning $55,000, the complaint said.

"I asked Walters if she had any addictions such as drugs or gambling and she replied no," the complaint said, citing a police report. "She said she has taken trips to (Las) Vegas every other year, but mainly sees shows."

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