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MADISON - Roger Lynn Otto, 56, of Chetek, was sentenced today in Barron County Circuit Court on one count of felony theft for embezzling funds from the Superior Fire Department, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today.
Otto entered a guilty plea to the felony theft charge at his court appearance on December 19, 2007, before Circuit Judge Timothy M. Doyle, who presided over today's sentencing.
The court withheld sentence and placed Otto on five years probation, with 10 months in county jail as a condition of probation. The Court ordered full restitution to be paid. The state has calculated that the total value of the embezzled funds is $239,676. Otto is jointly and severally liable to pay restitution with his co-conspirator Gotelaere.
Judge Doyle also heard from several representatives of Superior's city government, including its mayor, finance director and city attorney, who each spoke to the impact of the embezzlements on Superior city government. The fire chief and police chief submitted written statements expressing their perspectives on the non-monetary damages caused by the criminal conduct, including skeptical citizens who now question city officials' honesty and the low morale among the rank and file at the fire department.
According to the criminal complaint, beginning in 1999, Otto, owner of the fire equipment firm Eddy Brothers Co., conspired with Gotelaere to submit invoices containing charges for equipment and supplied 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 fire department invoices for payment. After the city issued checks in payment for these false charges, the complaint further alleges, Gotelaere and Otto would meet to divide the proceeds, with Gotelaere receiving most of the funds.
The case was investigated by agents of the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Paul Barnett and Barbara Oswald as special prosecutors for Barron County.