- Victim Assistance
- Consumer Protection
- Media Center
- Topical Index
MADISON -- Roger Lynn Otto, 56, of Chetek, appeared in Barron County Circuit Court this afternoon and pled guilty to one count of felony theft. The charge was filed today by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced. Van Hollen said that the charge stemmed from a comprehensive investigation conducted by agents from DOJ's Division of Criminal Investigation.
According to the criminal complaint, beginning in 1999, Otto, owner of the fire equipment firm Eddy Brothers Co., conspired with then city of Superior Fire Chief Stephen Gotelaere, to submit invoices containing charges for equipment and supplies that in fact were never ordered or delivered. The complaint alleges that Otto prepared invoices that included both legitimate and false charges and that Gotelaere would tell Otto what to put in the invoices and how much Gotelaere would get back. As fire chief, Gotelaere was responsible for reviewing and approving invoices to the fire department for payment. After the city issued checks in payment for these false charges, the complaint alleges, Gotelaere and Otto would meet to divide the proceeds, with Gotelaere receiving most of the funds.
The embezzlements continued until May 2005, when Gotelaere retired following the discovery he had submitted a false travel voucher. The complaint also alleges that the embezzlement scheme came to light when Gotelaere's successor discovered what appeared to be instances of double billing by Eddy Brothers Co. DOJ's subsequent investigation revealed the full scope of the scheme.
Otto agreed to plead guilty as part of a plea agreement that allows the State to ask the court to withhold sentence and place Otto on probation for five years. As conditions of probation, the State will seek one year in the county jail and full restitution, which the State has calculated is as much as $239,676.
The Department of Justice also filed charges this morning against Gotelaere. Gotelaere appeared in Douglas County Circuit Court earlier today and entered pleas of guilty to three felonies, including misconduct in public office, for his participation in the scheme.
"My office negotiated this plea agreement in exchange for Otto's full cooperation in our prosecution of the former Superior Fire Chief, Roger Gotelaere" said Van Hollen. "Together, these two plea agreements are in the interests of justice. They send a strong message to those who embezzle taxpayer public safety dollars: the State is committed to investigating and prosecuting these cases, to punish wrongdoing and to restore the public fisc."
Barron County Circuit Judge Timothy M. Doyle, who is presiding over the case, accepted Otto's plea in court this afternoon and scheduled his sentencing for Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 3:30 p.m.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Paul Barnett and Barbara Oswald as special prosecutors for Barron County.