Douglas County man charged with stealing $130,000 from employer to pay for Internet pornA Solon Springs town supervisor accused of pilfering more than $130,000 from his employer and using much of it to pay for online pornography and adult websites made an initial appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on Thursday.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A Solon Springs town supervisor accused of pilfering more than $130,000 from his employer and using much of it to pay for online pornography and adult websites made an initial appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on Thursday.
Michael “Mickey” Leroy Webster, 61, faces felony charges of theft-business setting and identity theft-financial gain. He was released on a $20,000 signature bond with the condition he have no contact with Great Lakes Pipe Service Inc., the business he allegedly stole funds from.
“It did come as a shock to me,” said David Sigfrids, owner of the business. The two men had been friends for 30 years and were fellow employees of the city of Superior. Sigfrids started Great Lakes Pipe Service Inc. in 2000, and Webster became an employee. The business cleans and inspects sewer pipes, including video inspections.
According to the criminal complaint:
Webster was an employee and vice president/secretary of Great Lakes Pipe Service Inc. Financial problems were discovered in January when Sigfrids received a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue stating $3,000 in taxes were due, and he went to Webster’s desk. A bank statement at the desk showed checks and payments that had been made without approval from the board of directors.
The next day, Sigfrids received a statement in the mail from a local credit union, although Great Lakes Pipe Service Inc. had never done banking there. He learned Webster had opened an account there in 2007 without authorization.
A review of the business’ financial transactions from Jan. 1, 2007, to Jan. 31, 2011, showed about $192,000 in unauthorized payments, including $40,000 funneled through the bogus account.
Superior Police Detective Michael Jaszczak interviewed Webster. He admitted he would deposit checks written to the business into the unauthorized account and either withdraw money or transfer it to his personal account.
Webster told Jaszczak more than $12,000 in direct payments to credit card companies were most likely for his Internet sex habit and online pornography, as was much of what was funneled through the unauthorized bank account. During three months in 2010, when he was supposed to be taking a pay cut, he paid himself another check to make up for it, he also said.
Even after taking into account items on the list of transactions that Webster claimed were either all or a percentage of legitimate business expenses, the missing money totaled between $132,000 and $137,000. Webster was amazed at the amount being over $130,000.
Sigfrids said the business originally had a bookkeeper, but Webster took over those duties around 2007, first doing quarterlies, then taxes and audits.
“I trusted him,” Sigfrids said.
Great Lakes Pipe Service Inc. is recovering “slowly but surely,” he said. Sigfrids said his son and other employees have stepped up to the plate to get the work done before cold weather shuts them down for the winter.
“We’re moving; we’re busy,” he said. And a local firm is leasing a truck to the Superior business.
Sigfrids said he hasn’t seen Webster since January when the embezzlement came to light. He said the case is in the hands of the justice system now. The revelation of the alleged theft has left the Sigfrids less trusting and saddened.
“I’ve lost a good friend,” he said.
Webster’s next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 16. If convicted, he faces a combined maximum sentence of 16 years and up to $35,000 in fines.