The onetime executive director of the Lake Minnetonka Association stole nearly $50,000 by writing dozens of checks to herself from two of the nonprofit's bank accounts, according to charges.
Melissa M. Waskiewicz, 41, of Minneapolis, was charged last week in Hennepin County District Court with nine counts of theft by swindle. Waskiewicz was charged by summons ahead of a court appearance set for March 8.
The total loss suffered by the association topped $48,000, according to prosecutors. The checks Waskiewicz wrote to herself starting in mid-December 2014 until August 2016 ranged from as little as $250 to as much as $3,000, according to the criminal complaint. Many of them listed in the complaint were for $1,000.
Waskiewicz's attorney, Fred Goetz, declared that his client committed no crime and that she "has a solid and long background" in nonprofit work.
"Mrs. Waskiewicz has been aware of these allegations since September 2016 and categorically denies there was any theft, fraud, embezzlement or other professional misconduct. We asked the [association] back in September what supported their claim [in order] to get to the bottom of this to see if there was any unintentional overpayment."
Goetz said association officials refused his request, and "rather than attempting to settle this matter in a civil proceeding, they decided to run to the police and file these charges."
Association President Tom Frahm reported the thefts to authorities on Sept. 15, 2016, after an internal audit revealed that Waskiewicz wrote nearly four dozen unauthorized checks to herself, the complaint read.
"When we questioned her, she kind of admitted she had taken money," Frahm said Monday. "I have no clue what she did with the money."
Frahm said the drain on the association's accounts "hurt us a bit, [but] we have managed to get along doing the things that we are doing anyway. Fortunately, the people out here on the lake have been very helpful."
The association, made up of lake homeowners and businesses, coordinates various preservation and cleanup efforts around the body of water that sits on the western edge of the Twin Cities and is popular for recreation and fishing.
In late summer 2015, for example, the association recruited volunteers to dive for garbage that boaters toss overboard near Big Island and Cruiser's Cove. For years, the association has conducted successful treatments to reduce Eurasian watermilfoil — a nuisance invasive plant — in several lake bays.
On Saturday, the association announced that Eric Evenson was its new executive director. Evenson has been involved with Lake Minnetonka in various ways for many years.
He served as the administrator of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District for more than 15 years and was instrumental in the preservation and restoration of Big Island, the establishment of aquatic invasive species programs and efforts to clean up polluted water draining into Lake Minnetonka.