Former EMS director charged with embezzlement

Sara Carlson faces one count each of embezzlement of public funds and theft after allegedly misappropriating over $11,000

By Hannah Yang

ZUMBROTA, Minn.  — The former director of Zumbrota Area Ambulance faces charges of embezzlement of public funds and theft after an investigation discovered more than $11,000 of misappropriated funds.

Sara Carlson, 55, of Wanamingo, faces one count each of embezzlement of public funds and theft, both felonies. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

The thefts occurred between Jan. 1, 2016, and Aug. 7, 2017.

Rochester Police Department Investigator Todd Schwanke conducted the investigation because of conflicts with area law enforcement jurisdictions, according to court documents.

The results of the investigation were forwarded to the Goodhue County Attorney's office on Dec. 12.

Carlson had served as a paramedic and director for Zumbrota Area Ambulance since July 2012. As director, she was responsible for overseeing funds, performing daily functions and managing paramedics. She was in that role until June 22, when she was placed on administrative leave by the ambulance service's board for inappropriate use of the Zumbrota Ambulance credit card. Carlson resigned July 6.

Tim Mack was appointed to serve as interim ambulance director after Carlson's resignation, and Brett Rima was hired in November as the new director.

Zumbrota Area Ambulance provides emergency medical services for Zumbrota, Wanamingo, Mazeppa, Goodhue, Bellechester and Pine Island, as well as surrounding townships in Goodhue County and Wabasha County.

What happened

Zumbrota Police Chief Patrick Callahan was contacted by Zumbrota Area Ambulance Treasurer Warren Majerus, who claimed Carlson was embezzling funds from the ambulance service.

Callahan then submitted a report to Schwanke, along with an audit completed by a certified public accountant from Hemann, Grover & Co. of Zumbrota.

According to the criminal complaint, the audit revealed the following:

• Carlson had given herself an extra paycheck on Aug. 3, 2016 in the amount of $1,200.

• Carlson received 31 paychecks in 25 weeks, with each check written for $1,230, resulting in overpayment of $7,380.

• Carlson received $500 per month as a medical reimbursement; she received $5,978.09 in medical reimbursements during 2017, even though she was entitled to receive $3,500.

•The overpaid salary in 2016 of $1,200 plus the overpaid salary of 2017 of $7,380 plus the overpaid medical reimbursement of $2,478.09 equaled $11,058.09.

It was reported that Carlson had previously "misused a company credit card," and had agreed to pay back the money.

According to the complaint, Majerus said he had spoken to Carlson, who told him that she struggled with addiction and was going to counseling. Majerus said that the ambulance service made a claim to the League of Minnesota Cities and was reimbursed for the entire amount that was missing, resulting in a loss of the $500 deductible paid to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Six months into 2017, Majerus authorities that Carlson "took double" what she was supposed to receive in salary. Officials claimed that they did not know Carlson had direct deposit and sometimes paid herself both by direct deposit and by check.

Carlson was not approached by the ambulance service board about the pay discrepancies, but was confronted about the credit card misuse. When the executive board hired a new ambulance director to replace Carlson, they conducted the audit that resulted in the discovery of embezzlement.

Copyright 2017 Post-Bulletin

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