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October 16, 2019

Jamie Taylor/river news

Kim Baltus, left, looks on as her attorney Maggie Hogan answers a question from judge Michael Bloom during her court appearance August 28.
Jamie Taylor/river news

Kim Baltus, left, looks on as her attorney Maggie Hogan answers a question from judge Michael Bloom during her court appearance August 28.
8/31/2019 7:30:00 AM
Baltus enters not guilty plea in embezzlement case
By River News Staff

The former executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC), charged with stealing almost $46,000 while serving as director of the Ascension Sacred Heart-St. Mary's Hospital Foundations, waived her right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday and entered a not guilty plea.

Kimberly Ann Baltus appeared before Branch II judge Michael Bloom with her attorney Maggie Hogan. After Baltus waived her right to a hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to proceed, assistant district attorney Jillian Pfeifer told the court the felony information, the formal charging document, to be filed in the case will contain the same charge as the criminal complaint - theft in a business setting more than $10,000.

Hogan said her client was ready to take the case to the arraignment stage and entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Bloom set the matter for a pre-trial conference at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5.

Baltus is free on a $10,000 signature bond with conditions she not enter Ascension premises unless medical treatment is necessary.

According to a criminal complaint filed July 9, while at Ascension, Baltus cashed 41 checks for almost $46,000 between January 2017 and October 2018 when she left her employment there, keeping the money for herself. According to a police report, Baltus has admitted to the thefts.

The probable cause for the criminal complaint is contained in a police report by Rhinelander police detective sergeant Joshua Chiamulera, written on April 17 and supplemented on May 23.

On April 11, Chiamulera wrote, he received a report from Crowe LLC - one of the largest providers of internal audit and financial advisory services in the U.S. health care industry - concerning a theft of money from Ascension St. Mary's Hospital Foundation in Rhinelander and the Sacred Heart Hospital Foundation in Tomahawk.

Crowe had been hired by Ascension to investigate a theft of money, Chiamulera wrote.

"When I received the report from Crowe LLC, I reviewed the information inside the report and found that Kimberly had possibly embezzled $46,204.95 in cash from a checking account," Chiamulera wrote. "Crowe had also identified $31,512.97 in gift card purchases that could not be tracked due to a lack of record keeping."

Crowe questioned whether the intended recipients had actually received the gift cards, Chiamulera wrote.

However, while the gift cards had not been tracked, Chiamulera wrote, Crowe's investigation determined Baltus had allegedly written checks made out to "cash," totaling $29,944.95 from the St. Mary's Foundation checking account, and $16,260 from the Sacred Heart Foundation checking account, the complaint states.

While the checks were made out to "cash," in each instance the check was allegedly endorsed by Baltus, Chiamulera wrote.

During an interview on April 16, Chiamulera said Baltus admitted to the thefts, except for one $300 check from the Sacred Heart Foundation dated July 29, 2016. That check was for a golf benefit or fundraiser, and Baltus said they needed money for making change and selling tickets for prizes.

"Kimberly said the remaining $45,904.95 was her, but she didn't realize it had gotten that far out of control," Chiamulera wrote.

Chiamulera wrote that Baltus said the thefts started in early 2017 when her husband became disabled from a debilitating back injury and wasn't able to work.

In the beginning, Chiamulera wrote that Baltus told him she started taking the money because it was easy to do and that she had every intention of paying it back. 

From there, it snowballed.

"Kimberly said as time went on she realized that she would never be able to repay the money but admitted she began taking larger amounts of money and more frequently," the report said. "Kimberly said she was very embarrassed that this happened and she really was a good person."

If convicted, Baltus could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

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