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Ex-payroll worker accused in $1M embezzlement

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A former payroll specialist at Wheaton Franciscan Services is accused of embezzling more than $1 million to support her gambling, according to a complaint released Monday.

Janice Nieman, 49, of Milwaukee is charged with four felonies — three counts of theft over $10,000 and one count of identity theft for a scheme that dates back to 2004.

According to the complaint, Nieman admitted to the theft and told Glendale police she used much of the money to play the slots at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

Nieman started gambling before she took the position at Wheaton 15 years ago, the complaint said. She started playing the slots to deal with the stress when she lost her previous job.

The complaint alleges from 2004 through June of this year, Nieman made more than 2,000 fraudulent transactions through the health care organization’s payroll system, using the identities of 848 different employees, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Nieman was responsible for payroll processing at several different Wheaton locations. According to the complaint, she allegedly embezzled the money through creating phantom paid time-off for different employees, then directing the money into her own accounts.

The employees neither earned nor used the time off, but it was listed in their payroll records when Nieman generated the fraudulent pay, the complaint said. To cover her tracks, she shredded the paper records generated by the system, designed to notify employees of the payments.

In April, Wheaton switched to a new payroll system that allowed employees to view their payroll information online. At that time, Nieman stopped using payroll information for active employees and instead used the identities of former employees, who would no longer be able to access the online payroll system, the complaint said. The fraud was discovered when one of the former employees was re-hired and noticed a discrepancy in her online records.

Nieman was fired from Wheaton in July. She is scheduled to make her initial court appearance Dec. 20.

A working home telephone number for Nieman could not be found. Defense attorney Steve Kohn said Monday that Nieman is getting help and cooperating with law enforcement and prosecutors.

Kohn expects the case to be resolved before trial.

“I think it’s a very sad and a tragic situation when someone with an addiction falls into the criminal justice system,” Kohn said. “She’s trying to put her life back together.”

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

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