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November 15, 2019

Jamie Taylor/river news

Kim Baltus leaves the defense table after receiving her sentence Tuesday afternoon. She has until Dec. 11 to report to the Oneida County jail to begin serving her 100-day sentence.
Jamie Taylor/river news

Kim Baltus leaves the defense table after receiving her sentence Tuesday afternoon. She has until Dec. 11 to report to the Oneida County jail to begin serving her 100-day sentence.
11/7/2019 7:30:00 AM
Baltus to serve 100 days for stealing almost $46K from hospital foundations

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter


The former director of the Ascension St. Mary's Hospital Foundation in Rhinelander and Sacred Heart Hospital Foundation in Tomahawk will serve 100 days in jail for stealing almost $46,000 from her employer.

Kimberly Ann Baltus received the jail term, as well as three years probation, after a judge approved a plea agreement in her case Tuesday afternoon.

Baltus appeared before Oneida County Circuit Judge Michael Bloom with her attorney Maggie Hogan for the hearing. After assistant district attorney Jillian Pfeifer outlined the terms of the plea agreement for the court, Bloom withheld sentence and placed Baltus on probation for three years and ordered her to serve 100 days in jail to start on or before Dec. 11.

Baltus, who is also a former executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce, was charged July 9 with theft in a business setting more than $10,000, a class G felony with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

She made her initial court appearance on July 29 and entered a not guilty plea on Aug. 28.

According to a criminal complaint, 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 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.

Chiamulera's report said that the Crowe report alleged that Baltus embezzled $46,204.95 in cash from a checking account.

"Crowe had also identified $31,512.97 in gift card purchases that could not be tracked due to a lack of record keeping," Chiamulera wrote.

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.

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

When Chiamulera questioned Baltus on April 16, she admitted to writing checks totaling $45,904.95 for her own purposes. She told the detective she started taking the money in early 2017 when her husband became disabled as the result of a debilitating back injury and wasn't able to work. The size and frequency of her cashing the checks increased even though she realized she would never be able to repay the debt as she had originally intended.

Under the terms of the agreement Pfeifer outlined Monday, Baltus was to plead guilty or no contest to an amended charge of theft in a business setting between $2,500 and $5,000, a class I felony. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 years with 18 months in prison and two years on extended supervision and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Under the terms of the agreement, Pfeifer asked that Baltus be placed on probation and serve six months in jail.

"The defendant was forthcoming and honest about the incident," Pfeifer said. "She did pay off the full restitution of $46,000 dollars. I think this is a situation where she really got caught up over time and that there was a significant amount of money that she just couldn't pay back."

Pfeifer also noted that Baltus has no criminal history and that in this instance a prison sentence would not be appropriate. However, some time in jail is necessary due to the gravity of the offense, she said.

"Given the amount of money that was taken and the fact that it was from Ascension, I do think that some jail time is appropriate," Pfeifer said.

Hogan noted that from the moment Baltus was confronted by the investigators from Crowe, she took responsibility for her actions. Hogan also referenced the numerous letters in support of her client that were filed ahead of the hearing.

"Some are from friends she's known her whole life, others are from a variety of individuals who are prominent in the Minocqua community and in the Northwoods, who tell the court they've known Ms. Baltus to be of exemplary character," Hogan said.

Hogan argued for a shorter jail sentence, noting that of the sentencing considerations Bloom had to weigh, the gravity of the offense factor is the one that counts the most in this case.

"I do think that any period in jail would be significant to Ms. Baltus, particularly in light of the fact that she now has a felony conviction," Hogan said.

Hogan also asked that if her client was sentenced to serve time in jail that she be given a short period of time to get her affairs in order.

When it came time for Baltus to speak on her own behalf, she was unable to read her prepared statement. After showing it to Pfeifer, Hogan gave the note card to Bloom, who read it into the record.

"I sincerely apologize to the hospital foundations and the communities they serve, my family and friends," Bloom read. "I'm very sorry and my remorse is immense. I carry a deep and abiding shame in my heart and will work diligently to pay my debt to society and restore my name and reputation."

Bloom agreed with Hogan that society does not need to be protected from Baltus and that she is unlikely to reoffend. He also noted that in all his years working in the legal system, in cases involving theft in a business setting, the defendants have usually been women.

"More often than not, it has been instances of people who are, more or less, good people without any prior criminal record who allow themselves to start helping themselves to money they had access to, for lack of a better way of putting it," Bloom said.

It is "believable" that it started out with relatively small sums of money "being borrowed with the intent to pay back," he continued, noting that at some point it must have become clear to Baltus that she wasn't going to be able to pay the money back.

"That is normally where these kind of things end up," Bloom said. "It takes a little while to take $46,000, and it does render this offense somewhat grave."

While prison is not warranted in this case, jail time is, he said.

"The amount of time, to some extent, is academic because the point of imposing time is primarily to make sure that Ms. Baltus understands, and to make sure that anyone who is paying attention to this case understands, that one cannot be involved in a case where the total amount in excess of $40,000 is, in essence, stolen, and not go to jail," Bloom said.

He said Hogan was also correct in stating that for Baltus, the damage to her reputation would have the greatest impact. Another point in her favor was that Baltus had already paid the restitution, he noted.

Contact Jamie Taylor at jamie@rivernewsonline.com.





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