Monday, April 8, 2013

Associated Press Links Embezzlement Cases To Gambling

Embezzlement charges often linked to gambling
APPLETON — A closer look at some high-profile embezzlement cases in the Fox Valley shows a connection to compulsive gambling.
Recently, the treasurer of the Fox Valley Youth Baseball League was sentenced to two months in jail and placed on probation for stealing $20,000 from the organization. The defendant blamed a gambling addiction.
An Appleton woman also blamed compulsive gambling for embezzling more than $300,000 from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans last year. She told police she began to steal when she could no longer keep up with her bills. Prosecutors dropped the case after an agreement was reached with the company.
Rose Gruber, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, said the majority of gamblers who steal from their employers are otherwise law-abiding citizens.
“For the most part, they have never been in trouble before,” Gruber said.
But once they get hooked on gambling, the losses can add up quickly.
“The more you do it, the more you need that high,” Gruber said. “It progresses as you go. It almost becomes make-believe money.”
Bob Pederson, the former president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, reflected on an embezzlement case that rocked the organization in 2003.
The controller of the Menasha-based nonprofit was accused of embezzling more than $500,000 to satisfy a gambling addiction. The controller was eventually convicted, sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.
“I wasn’t completely aware of the nature of intensity of what goes on with gambling addictions,” Pedersen said. “It’s a big issue. And a lot of people are into some pretty deep water.”
Pedersen said there are likely other embezzlements arising from gambling losses that are never made public.
“My sense is it’s a genuine problem,” he told The Post-Crescent ( “It’s real. There’s no question that it’s an issue and the fact that gambling is so prevalent in Wisconsin just contributes to the problem.”
Cathleen Starck Wille, a counselor with The Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley, sees the connection between a gambling addiction and embezzlement.
“You always hope that someone will stop or get help before they get to that point,” she said. “They always believe they are going to pay it back with another win. They just know that they can’t stop.”

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