SAGINAW, MI – To get hired as head of the Saginaw County Animal Care and Control Center, Lisa E. Stoffel fabricated college degrees. Once in office, she embezzled more than $ 30,000 from the animal shelter, authorities said.
Stoffel, 48, served as department head from August 2016 until her resignation in July 2018, amid press reports that she lied about her studies. Soon after, Michigan State Police began investigating an embezzlement complaint against Stoffel.
MLive obtained reports of the Stoffel investigation from the State Police via a Freedom of Information Act request. Reports indicate that a soldier interviewed Saginaw County Comptroller Robert V. Belleman on November 29, 2018 about Stoffel.
The soldier learned from the interview that when Stoffel applied for the position of Director of Animal Control in April 2018, she said she attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks from September 1992 to August 1997, earning 130 credit hours and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Stoffel also said she attended college from June 2008 to February 2009, completing 24 hours of paralegal studies without earning a degree.
Belleman provided the soldier with the college transcripts that Stoffel had provided to him. Belleman also handed over the official transcripts he later obtained directly from the university, which showed discrepancies with Stoffel’s own documents.
For example, the transcripts showed that Stoffel had earned 120 credits instead of 130 and that she had completed nine hours in paralegal studies, not 24. In addition, documents provided by Stoffel showed her last name Stoffel, so that they should have been under his previous last name, Barnes. , indicate reports.
Additionally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks did not offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the years Stoffel allegedly attended. The college also revealed the name and signature of a suspected employee on transcripts provided by Stoffel that did not belong to any of those employees.
Belleman put Stoffel on administrative leave on July 11, 2018, amid an internal investigation into his credentials. Stoffel resigned on July 22, stating in her resignation letter that she could not check her references.
Accounting for funds
After Stoffel resigned, county officials discovered that about $ 36,000 was missing from Animal Control’s operational account. Belleman told the soldier that $ 14,751.95 of the missing funds came from the 2018 Fur Ball fundraiser, which was held in May 2018 at Apple Mountain. The funds were to be used to build a new facility for homeless and abused animals, according to reports.
A local entity provided Stoffel with $ 1,000 in cash to sponsor the Fur Ball, although there is no record of this amount received by the county, according to reports.
According to police reports, 131 tickets were purchased for the fundraiser, although the venue registered 240 people in attendance.
Later in the investigation, the soldier interviewed Saginaw County Financial Services Manager Koren Thurston, who said Belleman wanted her to verify that every receipt from Animal Control was accounted for. Thurston compiled a list of funds that had been received by Animal Control but had not been deposited with the Saginaw County Treasurer’s Office, which brought in a total of $ 37,060.50, according to the reports.
Additionally, Thurston provided the soldier with a list of checks written to Animal Control that were never cashed. The checks were for donations, vaccinations, pet licenses and fundraising. The list revealed that between September 8, 2017 and June 12, 2018, 122 checks were written that could not be located.
Thurston also told the soldier that she learned of the existence of an animal control PayPal account while reviewing receipts from a rabies vaccination program. However, there have been no deposits to justify the program’s revenue, the reports say.
Thurston said he learned animal control staff were using a Square credit card reader at the clinic.
“Koren informed (Belleman) of the Square device because the rabies clinic deposits never reached the county treasurer’s office,” the soldier wrote. Koren said she put two and two together and realized it was probably because of the Square device they were using. Koren located the same problem with the receipts and deposits from the 2018 Furball event where a Square device was also used.
Kelly Suppes, Saginaw County’s purchasing and risk manager, then told the soldier that Stoffel asked her for a PayPal account, but she was unsure if Stoffel had already created one. She added that she had not provided Stoffel with any Saginaw County PayPal account information. Suppes also said she was unaware that Saginaw County had a Square device.
The money from those credit card sales was never deposited with the treasurer’s office, the soldier wrote.
The soldier then obtained records from Square Inc. via a warrant. These documents indicate that Stoffel created a Square account in February 2018 and called it a charity. The added bank accounts were Stoffel’s personal checking accounts at two financial institutions, according to police reports.
There were 55 swiped credit card transactions on a Square device. In total, transactions totaled $ 9,894.12, according to police reports. The amount was deposited to Stoffel’s Visa debit card, according to reports.
The soldier interviewed Stoffel with his lawyer, C. Michael Gorte, on March 1, 2019. Stoffel told the soldier that she did not know where the missing funds were. She also said it was normal for Saginaw County funds to be transferred to a personal bank account and then transferred again.
Regarding the funds documented on the Square account, Stoffel said they went to the Saginaw Community Foundation after she wrote him a check from her personal account. Stoffel couldn’t remember which bank she wrote the check to.
The soldier asked Stoffel what she thought was really going on with the situation. Stoffel replied that she believed the numbers Thurston cited were inaccurate.
“Lisa advised everything she tried to do as a principal to give Animal Control a boost,” the soldier wrote. “She donated a lot of her (deceased) father’s money and doesn’t need the county money. Lisa said it was very upsetting for her and her family that Saginaw County took this opportunity to throw them out. “
She added that she did not receive an employee manual and did not sign any documents on rules and procedures when she was hired.
When the soldier asked Stoffel about his alleged academic credentials, Gorte advised him not to discuss it.
In early June of this year, Stoffel was arraigned in Saginaw County District Court on one count of embezzlement between $ 1,000 and $ 20,000. The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Stoffel currently lives in Breckenridge and is free on bail. She is scheduled to appear at a court hearing at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21.
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