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Wis. woman pleads guilty in $95,000 Woodbury swindle case

A Wisconsin woman accused of swindling her Woodbury employer out of nearly $100,000 pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony charge.

Debbie Jo Brown, 44, entered a guilty plea on one count of theft by swindle as part of a plea agreement in Washington County District Court.

Terms of the plea deal were not immediately available.

According to a criminal complaint, company officials at Quality Abstract, based in Woodbury, became suspicious after a March 2010 Internal Revenue Service audit flagged a period between 2007 and 2008. IRS auditors requested documentation of expenses charged to company credit cards.

Less than a month later, Brown abruptly quit her job, the complaint states. She met with the business owner, Bradley Schmitt, and allegedly admitted to using the company credit card for unauthorized purchases for three years.

Brown estimated the charges to tally $65,000.

Schmitt began an investigation of the account and determined the alleged theft spanned from 2005 to 2010, resulting in a total company loss of $95,631, the complaint states.

Washington County prosecutors allege Brown, of Osceola, Wis., made the unauthorized purchases at retail establishments, Minnesota casinos, airlines, Wisconsin state and local government, and communications companies.

During an interview with Woodbury police, Brown explained her sudden departure from Quality Abstract.

"I couldn't do it anymore. The guilt was killing me," the complaint states.

Brown - who had worked at the company since 1990, eventually becoming a vice president - told police she had been using the company credit card for personal purchases "since Day 1." She admitted that she was living beyond her means, but that debt kept "snowballing."

According to the complaint, Brown acknowledged the unauthorized charges went toward personal expenses, including vacations, insurance, cell phone bills and other items.

A June 16 sentencing hearing is set for the case.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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