Former Vernon County employee pleads not guilty to embezzling over $30,000

VIROQUA, Wis. – A former Vernon County employee that was arrested in July on embezzlement charges pled not guilty in Vernon County Circuit Court this week. 30-year-old Kayla Fortney appeared in court with her attorney Keith Belzer in front of Judge Timothy Gaskell on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Fortney is charged with theft in a business setting greater than $10,000.00. That charges carries a maximum sentence of not more than 10 years in prison and maximum fine of $25,000.

According to the criminal complaint Fortney was employed in the Vernon County Finance Department and briefly worked in the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office. Fortney’s supervisors began looking into accounts she had been handling after surveillance video showed she had taken money from a fellow employees purse without permission in July. The complaint states that when confronted with the evidence of this incident, Fortney chose to resign in lieu of termination.

A review of those accounts showed Fortney had made purchases on her county Amazon account that were personal purchases . The complaint states “approximately $33,000 of Vernon County funds were utilized to purchase personal items from Vernon Counties Amazon Account”. Items purchased were sent to either Fortney’s place of employment, a relatives house in Soldiers Grove, or her residence in Gays Mills.

Examples of some of these items included various clothing items, a swimming pool, several televisions and a multitude of other non-work related items. A compete list of items was not included in the complaint.

Fortney was later interviewed by Viroqua Police investigators and acknowledged what she had done, and told investigators she had every intention of paying the county back the money she owed. The complaint states Fortney said she knew what she did was wrong and regretted it. She also explained she was in a “bad place in her life” as she was dealing with the death of her mother and her family home had burned down.

Fortney told investigators “Everything I did at the County was stupid I shouldn’t have done it”. When informed the cost of items was in excess of $30,000, Fortney responded something to the effect she knew but was willing to pay it all back.

Fortney is due back in Vernon County Circuit Court on January 30 at 1 p.m.

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