A Milwaukee County worker in charge of a program to boost minority- and female-owned businesses has been accused of fraud, allegations that her friends and colleagues say are hard to believe. Although she has yet to be officially charged, she spent last Thursday night in jail and has been suspended without pay while the investigation against her continues.
The 63-year-old director of community business development is accused of taking $3,430 in kickbacks from a local business owner in an elaborate fraud scheme. Investigators say that she backdated a contract for the owner by several months and falsely billed the county for business classes that were never held, along with other sham services.
The Community Development Business Partners office, which the woman has run since 2003, aims to increase the viability of small businesses in Milwaukee, particularly those run by women and minorities. It does this in part by writing contracts and grants, as well as holding special classes for novice business owners. The director is accused of creating a fake contract for the implicated business owner, submitting orders for thousands of dollars in payments for classes and forging invoices for instructors of some of the classes to justify payments to the business owner, among other offenses. A court document says she received the $3,430 from the owner in return.
Both the woman's office and the business of her alleged co-conspirator have been scoured by FBI agents and officials from the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. The chief deputy district attorney said charges may not be filed for another several weeks. In the meantime, the woman has not commented on the case to reporters -- a wise move as she awaits the fallout from the investigation.
Investigations for fraud and other white collar crimes are usually complicated and time-consuming, and sometimes allegations are dismissed without formal charges ever being filed. Even if an investigation turns up empty, it's crucial that defendants contact an attorney immediately after allegations arise so that he or she can begin preparing a defense case. The more time an attorney has to learn every single detail of the case, the better equipped both the defendant and counsel will be if the case goes to court.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County official accused of taking kickbacks," Steve Schultze, July 24, 2012
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