Eau Claire Co. employee allegedly embezzles nearly $20,000

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Once again, a large amount of money is stolen from Eau Claire County, and once again the suspect is a person who worked for the county. 

Susan O’Connor was charged Thursday with stealing nearly $20,000 while working in the Eau Claire County Finance Department. She was a temporary employee hired through a local temporary services agency. 

Investigators said she started work in June, and about a month later wrote a $15,000 county check to herself, and another for nearly $5,000 to her landlord.  

The county notified investigators about a week later. 

O’Connor blamed her actions on "stupidity" in her own words. 

She said she used the money to pay bills, pay back loans to relatives and for a trip to Pennsylvania. 

She estimated she still had about about $2,900 of the stolen money in her bank account.

O’Connor faces two felony charges that carry up to 13.5 years of possible prison time. She returns to court in October. 

Former treasurer Larry Lokken and deputy treasurer Kay Onarheim are serving prison sentences for embezzling more than $1-million from the county.

After that, the county instituted new safeguards. Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf said a system of checks and balances flagged the missing money not long after the alleged crime.

“We are extremely pleased our controls and systems helped determine a theft was in progress. Our deputies were alerted and the suspect was identified immediately,” Schauf said.

Schauf said it is early in the legal process, but the county is confident it will recover all $20,000.

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