Eau Claire (WQOW) – The woman who founded Hope in the Valley, a non-profit in Eau Claire, has been charged with stealing more than $66,000 from the group.
Renelle Laffe, 39, is charged with theft from a business totaling between $10,000-$100,000.
Hope in the Valley is a non-profit cancer advocacy organization.
According to the criminal complaint, Renelle Laffe used funds from Hope in the Valley for personal financial gain beginning in 2015. The complaint says Laffe was the only person to make transactions on the account.
The complaint says Laffe wrote out $20,450 in checks for her own business Angelus Salon and Spa.
She allegedly also wrote out checks for her home’s closing costs, gym memberships, advertising for her business and the business’ water bill.
An Eau Claire detective said the department was tipped off by a confidential source. The detective determined Laffe used a significant portion of Hope in the Valley funds for personal use.
The complaint says of the $66,893.80 used from the account for personal use, $22,060 was paid back. In addition, Laffe made a donation of $8,828.14 from her account on behalf of Hope in the Valley to Joshua’s camp, bringing the estimated total to $36,005.66 that is still owed to the Hope in the Valley account.
Laffe called herself a “terrible bookkeeper” and said she would forget her personal checkbook or personal debit card.
Laffe was in court on Wednesday where a $5,000 signature bond was set.
Hope in the Valley partnered with Mayo Clinic Health System every year to put on the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival. That event was canceled for the year on June 28.
Vice Chair of Administration for Mayo Clinic Health System in northwest Wisconsin, Susanne Degen, gave News 18 the following statement:
“Mayo Clinic Health System is fully cooperating with law enforcement regarding this investigation.
While we’re not able to comment on an ongoing investigation, we had been closely watching 2019 Dragon Boat participation numbers for several months, and our decision to cancel was made regardless of any other contributing factors.
After announcing cancellation of the 2019 Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival, Mayo Clinic Health System requested Hope in the Valley to provide full reimbursement for this event. Our goal is that all teams, donors and sponsors receive refunds. If sponsors or teams have specific questions related to the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayo Clinic Health System is no longer involved with Hope in the Valley, but will continue to seek out ways to be involved in the community to support cancer awareness, hope and healing.”