News – November 14, 2011

Carols Tours Charges Detailed

11/14/11 – Two Beaver Dam women face felony charges for their role in the closure of a local travel agency that resulted in hundreds of people paying for vacations they never received. Carol’s Tours closed its doors in January of 2008. Owner Deborah Paul is charged with two counts of Theft in a Business Setting, each of which carries a maximum ten year prison sentence, upon conviction. Her complaint lists 194 people who paid a total of nearly $315,000 for vacations that were never arranged between May of 2007 and February of 2008. That includes $5000 that was collected after Paul had been made aware that the business was failing. Paul reportedly learned as early as November of 2007 that her business was not profitable and should be closed. The complaint also alleges that the agency had lost its ability to provide trip interruption insurance even though it had collected nearly $15,000 from customers to acquire the coverage. Many customers had even contacted the insurance company after losing their vacations and were told they were not covered because no payments had been made. Paul reportedly told investigators in November of 2009 that in the years before the agency closed, all of her personal bills were paid by Carol’s Tours, Inc. She reportedly described her business practice as “robbing Peter to pay Paul” using money for future trips to pay for current trips.

Her office manager, 46-year-old Lisa Hopper is charged with Theft in a Business Setting and Fraudulent Writings and also faces a combined maximum of 20 years in prison. According to Hopper’s criminal complaint, her boss Deb Paul contacted Beaver Dam police shortly after the business closed to allege that Hopper had been embezzling money from the business, forcing Paul to close the doors. An investigation eventually revealed bankruptcy filings from not only Carol’s Tours but also Paul and Hopper individually. Hopper had a reported $50,000 in credit card debt and bounced as many as 100 personal checks. Hopper told police that Carol’s Tour’s fell on hard times after 9-11. On occasions when the business was in danger of having trip tickets cancelled for lack of payment, Paul would reportedly ask her office manager to pay it on her personal credit card and Hopper would be reimbursed the next month. Further investigation revealed that checks from the business were used to pay Hopper’s personal bills. Some were allegedly altered after they cleared the bank and were returned back to the business. For example, items were allegedly written into the memo after-the-fact that made it appear to be a legitimate business expense. Hopper is believed to have received as much as $90,000 from the business to pay her mortgage, credit cards and even plastic surgery. Initial appearances in both cases will be held in Dodge County Court on Monday, November 21 at 10:30am.

The criminal complaints can be viewed here:

Columbus, Rural Group Reach EMS Agreement

11/14/11 – The City of Columbus and the Rural Group have agreed to provide a paid per call Ambulance Service to the Fall River Group for the next eight months. Fall River EMS has been troubled with declining staff numbers for the past year. Mayor Bob Link said that the Columbus Lifestar Ambulance service has offered to extend their coverage to the Fall River, Otsego and Courtland residents. Numerous calls for “mutual aid” from the Fall River EMS led to discussions between Village, City, Rural Group and Lifestar representatives this past week. Link said that an informal agreement is now in place using Lifestar to cover the expanded coverage area. Details of a formal EMS “Inter Municipal Agreement” (I-G-A) between Columbus and six surrounding townships are expected to be approved by January 1.

Recall Expected to Begin Tomorrow

11/14/11 – Starting tomorrow, Democrats and their supporters will start asking Wisconsinites to sign petitions demanding the recall of Republican Governor Scott Walker. But former state Democratic chairman Joe Wineke tells the A-P that some in his party are “very nervous,” because there’s no prevailing candidate to oppose Walker in a recall election. But Wineke says he personally believes there’s no rush to choose a nominee. Marty Beil, head of the Wisconsin State Employees’ Union, says they can worry about a candidate after they get the signatures. They’ll need to file 540-thousand valid signatures by January 17th to force a recall election. Democrat Dave Obey, who represented northern Wisconsin in the U-S House for 40 years, said the issue is Scott Walker and not quote, “candidate A or B.” The 73-year-old Obey has said he would consider running for governor if U-S Senator Herb Kohl or Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett don’t. Kohl, who’s 76, says he’s not interested after announcing his retirement from the Senate. Barrett, who lost to Walker in the scheduled gubernatorial contest a year ago, has said he’s focused on being re-elected in Milwaukee. Former U-S Senate Democrat Russ Feingold, who lost to Ron Johnson last year, said he won’t run for anything in 2012. Other possible Democratic hopefuls are state Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. Walker has been targeted for months over his bill to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employee unions. Democratic Party strategist Sachin Chheda told the A-P that people at some level believe quote, “a rocking chair with nobody sitting in it would be a better governor than Scott Walker.”

Woman Accused of Stealing Checks to Pay for Drug Habit

11/14/11 – To supply her drug habit a Waupun woman allegedly stole thousands of dollars from her former brother-in-law. 35-year-old Jodi Van Buren-Irish has been charged with 30 felony counts each of forgery and uttering a forgery. Van Buren-Irish is alleged to have stolen checks from the farm account of Barry Van Buren and cashing them to the tune of $3,500 over a five month period ending in March of this year. Prosecutors say Van Buren-Irish later admitted stealing the checks in an effort to buy more of the pills she was abusing. Van Buren-Irish is due back in court later this week.

We Energies Won’t Be Passing Along Cost of Cleanup

11/14/11 – You won’t be paying for the clean up of what was spilled into Lake Michigan during a mud slide late last month. We Energies, which provides power to the southern and far eastern portions of Dodge County, says its stockholders will pay to remove the materials and the construction that washed into the lake at the Oak Creek power plant. Still, Charlie Higley of the Citizens Utility Board – which represents Wisconsin utility customers – expects We Energies to try and have rate-payers cover at least some of the repair costs through a rate increase the company asked the state for recently.

Missing Green Lake Kayaker Found

11/14/11 – The Langlade County Sheriff’s office says the body of a kayaker has been found. Thirty one year old Travis Groenewold of Green Lake went missing a week ago. His body was

pulled from Post Lake Saturday afternoon at about 4:30 p.m. Groenewold had last been seen in a bar at Twin Oaks Resort at about midnight. He and his wife were at their seasonal home near Elcho when the victim decided to go to the bar. Instead of driving around the lake, he paddled his kayak a few hundred feet to reach it by water. He left the bar at about midnight and was never seen again.

Herman Cain in Wisconsin Today

11/14/11 – Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain will visit Wisconsin today. The former Godfather’s Pizza C-E-O will hold a fund-raising lunch and receptions at the Milwaukee Athletic Club starting at 11:30. Then at five this evening, Cain will hold a tailgate party for Packer-backers about two blocks west of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The Packers play the Vikings at 7:30 tonight at Lambeau.