Ex-land trust head charged with theft
The former director of the West Wisconsin Land Trust is facing a felony fraud charge for misusing the organization's funds, including using a land trust credit card to pay costs of a cross-country bike ride.
Richard E. Gauger, 53, who was fired after an audit of the land trust's finances, has been charged with felony theft, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The misuse of funds came to light after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service couldn't account for $551,000 in public funds intended for the purchase of land by the trust. In order to pay that amount back, the land trust relinquished 1,500 acres of land valued at more $3 million to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Land trust staff found $66,466 in inappropriate charges, according to a complaint filed by the office of the Dunn County district attorney. Jane Prohaska, Interim Director of West Wisconsin Land Trust, said Gauger admitted misappropriating funds and has paid back nearly $25,000.
Purchases questioned include hundreds of dollars worth of coffee monthly, $13,000 worth of nutritional supplements and $3,000 paid to a bicycling touring company for logistical support during a cross-country bicycle ride. "Over the course of the ride, Gauger used the credit card for $600 in food and expenses and $1,626 for a hotel in Hilton Head, S.C., at the end of the ride," the Journal Sentinel reported.
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