A Waukesha woman who stole almost $23,000 from the Waukesha School District while employed through Sodexo, Inc. as a school kitchen manager could spend up to 10 years in prison for her crime.
That's the maximum possible sentence for 42-year-old Stacey Russell, who on April 7 pleaded no contest to a felony charge of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lee S. Dreyfus found Russell guilty the same day and is scheduled to sentence her on May 8, court records show.
Russell ran a kitchen cash register at Waukesha South High School, and was responsible for making daily deposits into the district account. She had been employed at the school through Sodexo since August 2013.
She was charged in April 2015 about five months after another district employee noticed discrepancies in deposits Russell made in September and October 2014. She was originally facing a felony fraud charge as well, but records show it was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
According to a criminal complaint, Russell stole money by skimming from checks given to her by students and at times by simply pocketing money from food sales she didn't ring into the register.
The money from the checks would be credited to a student's account, but Russell would enter a lesser dollar amount into the sales system than was written on the check and pocket the difference, the complaint said.
Russell said in the complaint that she used the money from the district and forged checks to pay various bills, but added that she took some of the money to the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee and gambled with it to "try to win some of the money back" so she could make restitution.
Court records indicate she has agreed to pay $19,974 in restitution to Sodexo and $8,538.40 to Waukesha State Bank, where she cashed several fraudulent checks.
Last May, after 20 years with Sodexo, the Waukesha School Board voted to change food service providers. The board awarded the district's food services contract to Aramark.
The loss of the contract resulted in about 80 layoffs at Sodexo.
It wasn't the only theft case involving district operations in that year.
Another Waukesha woman, Jaime Cutts, accused of stealing $14,000 from the Hawthorne Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization is scheduled to take her case to trial May 9.