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County worker’s alleged theft may top $1 million

CARLTON — A Cloquet woman who collected fees for waste disposal in Carlton County for nearly 30 years is accused of stealing money while on the job -- an amount that could total “as much as seven figures,” the county attorney said.

Joanne Marie Wappes, 63, was charged Friday in Sixth District Court with theft of public funds and theft by swindle. Judge Robert Macaulay set bail at the amount requested by Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler -- $50,000 bond/$5,000 cash -- and ordered a pretrial release study for Wappes, who has no prior criminal record.

According to the criminal complaint, Wappes has deposited more than $30,000 into bank accounts this year, but has earned only $17,500. For 2012, Wappes allegedly deposited about $45,000 into various bank accounts but earned only about $28,000. As far back as 2007, deposits exceeded the defendant’s gross income by $63,000.

Wappes, who is on paid administrative leave from her job, had worked at the waste disposal job since 1984.

According to the complaint, investigators reviewed surveillance footage and observed suspicious behavior that involved Wappes manipulating the cash register and handing out false receipts to customers.

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