Sara Welcenbach accused of stealing money from confidential funds
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
A $1,000 signature bond has been set for an Oneida County detective sergeant charged with two felony counts of misconduct in public office.
Sara Welcenbach (also known as Sara Gardner), who is accused of stealing money from confidential funds from 2010 to 2014 when she was in charge of the sheriff department’s drug unit, made an initial appearance Wednesday at the Oneida County Courthouse. Welcenbach has not been held in custody since being arrested and booked in early November.
Price County Judge Douglas T. Fox, who has been assigned to the case after both of Oneida County’s judges recused themselves, appeared by phone for the initial appearance as did Welcenbach’s attorney, Thomas G. Halloran, and the special prosecutor in the case, assistant attorney general Christopher A. Liegel.
After Welcenbach waived the time limits that would have required holding a preliminary hearing within 20 days, Fox asked that the attorneys decide on when to meet next for a pretrial conference, which could take place in the southern part of the state where the attorneys are located. According to online court records, that pretrial conference has been set for Jan. 18 at the Department of Justice in Milwaukee.
Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman said Welcenbach is on unpaid leave and hasn’t worked at the sheriff’s department since August 2014. He has also noted that since the discovery of the alleged theft, the drug unit has new leadership and continues to arrest subjects involved in the distribution of controlled substances.
Hartman said the sheriff’s office contacted the district attorney when the missing funds were discovered in 2014 and the investigation was turned over to the Wood County and Portage County sheriff’s offices and the attorney general’s office.
According to the criminal complaint signed by Liegel and Wood County sergeant Scott Machotka, confidential funds totaling around $1,200 were discovered missing with the discrepancies found in the account ledger on two occasions.
If convicted on both charges, Welcenbach could face up to three years of initial confinement in prison, followed by four years of extended supervision, and/or fines totaling $20,000.