Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Second woman faces embezzlement charge

by Rob Ireland

November 03, 2011

ELKHORN — In 2008, police caught wind of an employee who stole more than $800,000 from Home Design Manufacturing in Walworth.

That employee, Kari Sue Clark-Branton, 42, wrote checks from the business to herself and to Blue Hills Lippitt Morgans, which is owned by her friend, Joanne M. Anderson.

Clark-Branton, who is now serving a 2-1/2 year prison sentence, told police she was trying to help Anderson realize her dream of raising and showing show horses. Court records indicate more than $400,000 was issued to Blue Hill Lippitt Morgans from 2001 to 2008.

In April 2009, Clark Branton pleaded guilty to 32 felony counts — two counts of theft and 30 counts of forgery. In addition to prison time, Clark-Branton was sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to pay more than $964,000 in restitution.

On Oct. 28, the Walworth County District Attorney's Office filed a felony charge of receiving stolen property against Anderson, 48, 12140 W. State Road 48, of Exeland.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years imprisonment and $25,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint:

On March 24, 2008 the owners of Home Design Manufacturing Company contacted police after an accountant reviewed its finances and discovered more than $8000,00 in funds had been embezzled.

Clark-Branton, who worked for the company, admitted she had been stealing from the business for about five years and estimated she stole between $150,000 and $200,000.

A certified public account reported that between 2001 and 2008 checks totalling $498,502 were written to Clark-Branton, and during that time period, $413,507 in checks were written to Blue Hills Lippitt Morgans.

Anderson worked for Home Design Manufacturing in 1992, but left after making unauthorized charges to a credit card. After Anderson left, she recommended Clark-Branton to fill her position.

When police interviewed Clark-Branton, she said she would forge the business owner's signature on checks and issued between 500 and 1,000 checks without the owner's consent.

Clark-Branton said she attempted to cover her tracks by changing the "payee" in Quick Books to a vendor that works with the business. She said she forgot to do this with one check, which is why she suspected she was caught.

Clark-Branton also said she overpaid herself in payroll and bonus checks.

While Clark-Branton worked for Home Design Manufacturing, Anderson would e-mail Clark-Branton bills to the horse farm and Clark-Branton would determine which checks she could issue without getting caught.

Clark-Branton told police she never told Anderson the checks were being issued without permission, but she also never told Anderson the business owners authorized the transactions.

The business owners received a letter from Clark-Branton dated Feb. 27, 2008, which stated Anderson was in the process of contacting family members to obtain funds to repay the debt.

Clark-Branton wrote Anderson is doing "everything in her power" to sell horses so "we can get this money issue settled with you more quickly."