A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 28 in the case of a 61-year-old Minocqua woman accused of stealing almost $46,000 while serving as a director of the Ascension Sacred Heart-St. Mary’s Hospital Foundations.
Judge Michael Bloom scheduled the preliminary hearing during Kimberly Ann Baltus’ initial appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court on Monday afternoon.
Bloom also set a $10,000 signature bond in the case. As a condition of bond, Baltus is prohibited from going on Ascension premises unless medical treatment is necessary, the judge added.
According to a criminal complaint filed July 9, Baltus, a former Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) executive director, is charged with a single count of felony theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting.
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, the complaint alleges. According to a police report, Baltus has admitted to the thefts.
A central Wisconsin native, Baltus has served in a variety of community leadership positions during her years in the Northwoods. In addition to her roles at MACC and St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart, she also served as the development director for the Howard Young Foundation from June 2014 to October 2015.
Most recently, Baltus has been employed as the foundation coordinator for Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation.
In her interview with law enforcement, Baltus said the embezzlement stemmed at first from personal financial stresses. She had intended to pay the money back, she told law enforcement, but, even after she realized she couldn’t, she just kept stealing and doing so more frequently.
The probable cause for the criminal complaint is contained in a police report by Rhinelander police officer 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. The suspect was Kimberly Baltus.
“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 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 endorsed by Baltus, Chiamulera wrote.
After viewing the report, Chiamulera wrote he arranged an interview with Baltus, which took place on April 16. During that interview, Chiamulera advised Baltus she didn’t have to talk if she didn’t want to, but she said more than once she would talk.
“I told Kimberly that the topic we had to talk about could be difficult for her because what occurred was probably quite embarrassing to her,” he wrote. “Kimberly started crying and said it was.”
During the subsequent interview, 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 Baltus said it all started in early 2017 when her husband became disabled from a debilitating back injury and wasn’t able to work.
“Kimberly said they were making less and paying more for medical bills,” the officer wrote in the report. “She said they had a $6,000 deductible and then on top of that were trying alternative medical stuff. She said there were chiropractor visits, acupuncture, holistic eating and medicine type visits they had out of pocket payments.”
In the beginning, Chiamulera wrote Baltus told him she started taking the money because it was easy to do and 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,” he wrote. “Kimberly said she was very embarrassed that this happened and she really was a good person.”
Baltus also told Chiamulera, he reported, she had already admitted the theft to Sandy Anderson of Ascension. Text messages between the two proved that was the case, Chiamulera wrote.
Baltus also denied having anything to do with the gift cards, saying she was taking enough as cash and didn’t need to take anything further in gift cards. Baltus also told Chiamulera she wanted to repay the money and wondered if she could do that and avoid further legal consequences, the report stated.
“Kimberly said she had family that would probably help her out and wanted to know if she would still be in trouble if she repaid the money,” he wrote. “I told Kimberly that the fact that I was interviewing her meant that the hospital wanted her charged and that it was out of my hands as far as what happened from this point.”
The bottom line of the interview was, Chiamulera wrote, Baltus admitted stealing $45,904.95 from the hospital for her own gain. She also was on the record saying she at first wanted to pay the money back, but realized as the thefts went on that she would not be able to.
Still, Chiamulera concluded, she “just kept taking it.”
After the interview, Chiamulera said he spoke with Anderson, who said she would consult with an Ascension attorney about how they would want to proceed, and she told Chiamulera she also wanted to talk with others in the foundations to see how they felt about just letting Baltus pay the money back.
By early May, that decision was made.
“On Monday, May 6, 2019, I received a phone call from Sandy (Anderson) regarding the foundation’s position on the theft,” Chiamulera wrote. “Sandy said that the foundations wanted to proceed with charging Kimberly and would like to see her prosecuted for her actions.”
In a supplemental narrative, Chiamulera wrote Baltus began working for Ascension in October 2015 “where she worked without incident until the thefts began in January 2017.”
If convicted, Baltus could be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced up to 10 years in prison, or both.