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August 23, 2019

7/2/2019 7:30:00 AM
Woman accused of theft in a business setting accepts plea agreement
Abigail Bostwick
Of The Lakeland Times

A Boulder Junction woman charged with felony theft related to business expenses and being the trustee for her mother has been convicted of the crime in Vilas County Circuit Court.

Amy Wheeler, 47, Boulder Junction, was before Judge Neal A. Nielsen on June 26 for a plea and sentencing hearing on six felony counts of theft in a business setting (more than $10,000) as well as a separate case involving two counts each of fraud/sales with tax return, fail to file an income tax return and theft in a business setting of less than $2,500, all misdemeanors; and six felony counts of theft in a business setting.

Present for the hearing via telephone were the reported victims of the crime, the sister of Wheeler's deceased mother and Wheeler's sister, as well as a daughter of the deceased.

"There is potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars," prosecutor assistant district attorney Scott Niemi said. He noted that restitution was to be a part of the plea agreement and sentence. "Somewhere around half a million dollars or more."

Nielsen questioned how the state expected Wheeler to pay such high restitution when she'd lost her business to foreclosure, has no assets left and is facing several tax warrants.

"How do you expect her to pay any substantial amount of this money back?" Nielsen asked.

"It's a lot of money," Niemi noted, citing the victims of the crime in addition to unpaid nursing home bills for the deceased mother - a bill that was supposed to be paid by a trust of which Wheeler was the trustee - as well as funeral costs. The estate of the deceased also was to be split equally between daughters. However, there were no funds left by Wheeler for her sister, the court said.

"We're in a position where we have to ask for it," Niemi went on. "It's a theft of staggering amounts ... it completely depleted the assets of her mother ... it deprived her sister as well, as there may have been a significant inheritance that is now gone."

That inheritance may have been as high as a quarter of a million dollars, Niemi said. Around $87,000 is still due to the nursing home and an open civil suit is seeking around $7,000 in funeral costs.

Representing Wheeler, attorney Brian Bennett proposed a pre-sentence investigation be conducted before Nielsen issues a sentence.

"I don't think I'm prepared to move to sentencing today without knowing more," Nielsen said. "(We need to find) a way to make it right."

Wheeler entered no contest pleas to felony theft by trustee of more than $10,000 as well as felony theft in a business setting. All remaining counts were dismissed and will be read into the record at sentencing.

Nielsen found Wheeler guilty of the crime. Her $10,000 signature bond will continue during the pre-sentence investigation process and prior to a July restitution hearing - expected to last half a day - and a sentencing hearing in early September.

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