Struggling to pay her personal bills, Jaime L. Cutts allegedly turned to the parent-teacher organization which she oversaw.

Now, more than two months after the incident became public and the Hawthorne Elementary School PTO was subsequently suspended by the Waukesha School District, Cutts, 38, has been charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court for stealing from the PTO over a 10-month period.

Cutts, 206 N. Hine Ave., was charged on Friday, March 25, with felony theft in a business setting greater than $10,000. If convicted, Cutts faces up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Cutts will make her initial appearance in court on April 11.

Stealing from PTO

According to the criminal complaint, Hawthorne Elementary School's newly elected PTO president, Amy Lemm, contacted the Waukesha Police Department about the theft on Feb. 6, though officials became aware of the missing money weeks earlier.

Lemm said she was made aware in November 2015 that Cutts, who was elected PTO president in 2015, stole $14,372 from the organization between Jan. 1, 2015 and Oct. 31.

Lemm provided banking statements for the PTO through the Waukesha State Bank, which verified money was stolen from the PTO, the complaint said.

Hawthorne's principal, Tina Koch, informed police that Cutts told her she stole money from the PTO because she was struggling financially and needed the money to pay bills, the complaint said. According to the complaint, Cutts was apologetic for her actions.

On March 3, while being interviewed by a Waukesha police detective, Cutts confirmed what she told Koch previously that when she ran into financial problems she used the PTO bank card to take money out of ATMs.

Cutts said she planned to and did pay some of the money back, the complaint notes. Cutts also told police, according to the complaint, that in August 2015 she deposited $5,000 back into the PTO account. Cutts was contacted by the PTO treasurer in October after the treasurer realized there "was a disturbing balance in the account."

Taking action

The charges against Cutts comes more than a few months after the PTO began taking corrective measures once becoming aware of the situation.

In a memo to Hawthorne Elementary School parents on Jan. 11 from a PTO representative, the organization confronted Cutts, who wasn't named at the time, and she took full responsibility and was cooperating.

The PTO, which also had sought the guidance of the district and met with the district's chief financial officer to outline suggested money-handling procedures, voided and eliminated all of the debit cards that had been put in place a few years prior.

The PTO also said in the memo that it had worked out an agreement to make sure the funds would be repaid before the end of the school year. It has already received more than 45 percent of the funds back.

Second time

The charges also come on the heels of another woman who was recently sentenced for stealing more than $10,000 from a different elementary school in Waukesha.

After Ann Paquette, who had served as Banting Elementary School's PTO treasurer, pleaded no contest to a felony theft charge in January, she was sentenced March 16 in Waukesha County Circuit Court by Judge Ralph Ramirez to 30 days in jail.

A 36-month prison sentence for Paquette has been stayed in favor of two years of probation and 30 days of conditioned jail time, which she began serving March 21.

According to the criminal complaint, much of the money Paquette stole was used on personal expenses. Paquette has paid back the money in fall, according to court records.

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