County: Claassen pleads guilty to embezzlement charges

Staff Report 

Former Winnebago County Purchasing Director Sally Claassen entered a guilty plea Wednesday to two charges of embezzling funds from the county government.

Claassen is accused of stealing more than $450,000 from Winnebago County, acquiring money by paying falsified invoices with county funds to as-yet unnamed vendors.

Those vendors allegedly paid Claassen back the amount in checks made out to “Cash” or her personal bank for the amount of the invoices.

Claassen also submitted false invoices and used county credit cards for personal home improvement projects.

The federal embezzlement charges levied against Claassen accused her of misappropriating more than $5,000 in federal funds issued to the county in both 2014 and 2015.

The former purchasing director, who resigned last September after being placed on leave amid the FBI’s investigation, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13.

An indictment filed last week sought $451,353 to be returned by Claassen. The government seized $292,525 from her bank account last December.

The plea deal entered today will allow Claassen to challenge the total amount of the funds the U.S. Attorney’s office claims she stole.

The FBI investigation into county finances is still ongoing.

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