Prosecutors have charged the former head of the Wisconsin Holstein Association with a felony, alleging he embezzled more than $15,000 from the Baraboo nonprofit.
On Friday, the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office filed a one-count business theft complaint against Larry P. Nelson, 38, of Fitchburg. Nelson worked as a manager with the Wisconsin Holstein Association until he was promoted to executive director in 2012.
According to the complaint, staff with the nonprofit became suspicious after they noticed discrepancies involving a credit card provided to Nelson through the organization.
Receipts were missing, so staff requested statements from the credit card company. The documents showed charges for sports bars, liquor stores, night clubs, haircuts and other transactions not associated with official business, the complaint states.
The statements also allegedly showed payments for hotel stays in Milwaukee and Chicago — as well as a trip to Canada — that were not related to Nelson’s duties with the organization.
Staff told investigators that Nelson also wrote multiple checks to himself, in violation of the nonprofit group’s internal policies.
Nelson could not be reached by phone or through social media Friday.
The complaint states that a Baraboo Police Department detective interviewed him in June, and that Nelson denied intentionally misusing his employer’s money.
“Nelson admitted to using the credit card while on a trip to Canada, but explained it was used in order to help someone else who had forgotten their wallet,” the detective reported. “In reviewing the multiple charges for food, liquor, and other personal items seemingly unrelated to Association business, Nelson frequently admitted to using the card but (said) that it was a mistake due to his own American Express card being very similar to the Association card.”
When the detective asked to see his personal card in order to compare the two, Nelson allegedly said he no longer had it because “his financial adviser told him to cut up all of his credit cards.”
Wisconsin Holstein Association representative Laura Wackershauser, editor of the organization’s official publication, Wisconsin Holstein News, declined to comment Friday.
“We have no comment at this time,” Wackershauser wrote in an email.
The group’s website states the nonprofit membership organization works to promote the Registered Holstein breed of cattle and their owners.
According to the complaint, Nelson worked as the organization’s executive director for about four years, and was paid an annual salary of $54,000.
In November 2016, he stepped down as executive director. That same month, Nelson became a manager with a Madison-based agricultural marketing firm called Filament, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page.
Wisconsin Holstein Association staff told investigators that Nelson continued to work in a part-time role with the organization after he stepped down from his prior role. He was terminated in April after staff began to suspect he had embezzled funds.