Smith convicted of embezzlement, theft
By Robert Cloud
Judge Vicki Clussman sentenced the former Little Wolf town treasurer to six months in jail.
Thomas Smith, 57, Manawa, entered pleas of no contest to charges of felony embezzlement and misdemeanor theft.
He was convicted of stealing $200,000 in township property taxes over 15 years and from the Little Wolf Cemetery.
Smith appeared in Waupaca County Circuit Court for sentencing Monday, Sept. 14.
Little Wolf Town Clerk Jackie Beyer, whose investigation into missing funds uncovered that Smith had been stealing, spoke at Monday’s hearing. She said she was speaking on behalf of the town board and the residents of Little Wolf.
“The town and its 1,420 residents were not the only victims to come to light,” Beyer said. “The fact that the cemetery theft has been added to today’s considerations makes our town board feel reposnsible to speak for those victims who are dead and can’t speak for themselves. And for their family members that are appalled by this whole mess.”
Beyer said that Smith’s “hard luck story turned into a huge number of lies and incidents of theft.”
She questioned if he actually felt remorse for what he did.
“We have seen regret from Mr. Smith, but not until he was completely caught and knew he couldn’t deny it any longer,” Beyer said. “But it didn’t stop him from stealing from the cemetery the very next morning and giving that money to the town to cover up some of what he stole from the town.”
Beyer said Little Wolf residents have repeatedly questioned town board members about how the thefts occurred.
She noted that Smith withheld financial reports and town board members trusted him.
“As a result, the honesty and integrity of each of us is being questioned,” Beyer said.
She asked the judge to give Smith an appropriate sentence that would serve as a deterrent.
Assistant District Attorney James Fassbender asked the judge to place Smith on two years of probation and sentence him to 60 days in jail.
“He needs to see the inside of a jail cell for what he did,” Fassbender said. “I believe some period of incarceration is absolutely necessary.”
Fassbender said he did not believe prison was necessary because Smith was not a danger to the public or in need of rehabilitation. He argued in favor of some jail time because retribution is one of the purposes of sentencing.
Smith’s defense attorney, Tom Johnson, said retribution was another word for “retaliation and revenge” and should be used for violent offenders, not those who commit property crimes.
“We all have dark places that we don’t act upon,” Johnson said. “Let who is without blame cast the first stone.”
Johnson noted that Smith had sold his family farm to pay full restitution to the town and the cemetery.
When Smith was given an opportunity to address the court, he apologized to the town board, the residents of the town and to his family.
Clussman said that while Smith was a suitable candidate for probation because he had paid restitution and has no prior record, she noted that his offense was serious.
“You victimized the very people you asked to elect you to office,” Clussman said.
“This was a continuing act,” Clussman said. “It didn’t happen just once.”
Clussman placed Smith on two years of probation. As conditions of his probation, Clussman ordered him to serve six months in county jail with work release privileges and to perform 100 hours of community service.