Former Dells bookkeeper tells court $350K embezzlement supported gambling addiction
MADISON — A former bookkeeper/secretary accused of embezzling nearly $350,000 from the Lake Delton Fire Department Commission and the Dells-Delton Emergency Medical Services Commission said she took the money to support her gambling addiction.
Stephanie Czuprynko, 54, of Wisconsin Dells, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to embezzling $348,233 from the commissions in 2017.
“I took funds from (the commissions)… to fuel my gambling addiction,” Czuprynko told District Judge William Conley.
Asked how she pleads to the charge, Czuprynko said, “I plead guilty, your honor.”
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.
A search conducted of her desk Nov. 30 recovered spreadsheets detailing her theft and documents from Ho-Chunk Casino, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber.
Czuprynko embezzled by writing checks from the commissions’ accounts for her own use. Two signature stamps that Czuprynko bought and used to authorize checks also were found in her desk.
The former bookkeeper said she kept spreadsheets of her thefts because she “always thought that I would repay the funds.”
Czuprynko’s theft was investigated by the Lake Delton Police Department, which referred the matter to the FBI, which turned it over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution, Graber said.
The embezzlement is a federal offense because the commissions received about $685,000 in federal funds in 2017.
Czuprynko was charged in federal court April 29 after reaching a plea agreement, which she signed April 4.
Tuesday was her first court appearance in the case.
Neither Czuprynko nor her attorney, Mark Eisenberg, disputed Graber’s statements about how and when the funds were embezzled.
In the plea agreement, Czuprynko agreed to repay the commissions for the losses attributed to her and consented to sell real estate she owns on Hillside Drive in Wisconsin Dells.
Czuprynko remains free on standard conditions until her sentencing hearing, when she will face up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release and restitution. If the parties cannot agree upon the amount of restitution Czuprynko owes, Conley will determine the amount.
After court, Graber said Czuprynko was not a bonded employee with an insurer responsible for the loss she caused. Whether the commissions had other liability insurance for the thefts was not known Tuesday.
Eisenberg said his client was fired from her most recent job when her crime was disclosed.
Czuprynko was the secretary/bookkeeper for each of the commissions from August 2015 until December 2018, Daniel Hardman, director of Public Safety for the village of Lake Delton, said when the crime was first disclosed.
For much of her employment, Czuprynko made the bank deposits into the commissions’ checking accounts and wrote checks for their expenses. She was the only individual directly involved in the banking transactions. Commission members apparently did not independently verify where all the funds went.
Lake Delton Village President John Webb previously acknowledged that commissions’ record keeping system was flawed but said it has since been corrected.
“There’s already procedural changes made. A number of people now are looking at bank statements and checks,” he said last month.
The Fire Department Commission is governed by the village and town of Delton and serves those municipalities plus the town of Dellona and the Ho-Chunk Casino. The Dells-Delton EMS Commission is goverened by the city of Wisconsin Dells, the village of Lake Delton and the town of Delton, and serves those entities and the town of Dellona and the casino.