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Charges: St. Peter woman stole funds from relative with Downs

(St. Peter, MN) – A St. Peter woman stands accused of using her status as a financial payee to bilk social security funds from a disabled relative.

Stephanie Jolyn Menke, 33, was charged Monday in Nicollet County Court with felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Court documents say Habilitative Services, Inc., contacted authorities after a 49-year-old man with Downs Syndrome fell over $2,000 behind on his rent payments.  HSI discovered his checking account was overdrawn by $525.

Investigators interviewed Menke, a relative and the representative payee for the victim, who is unable to read or write.  Menke said she had taken $625 from the account for a family vacation in error and offered to correct the mistake, according to the complaint.

Investigation revealed that the Menke had three separate checking accounts at three different banks: a joint account with the victim (overdrawn), a joint account with her husband, and another in her maiden name in a small town 57 miles away.  Menke told police it was the third that was used for the victim’s “extra money.”  The account balance was over $2,000, according to the complaint.

A review of the victim’s social security income and expenses showed over $2,500 that were unaccounted for.

Menke admitted to investigators that she comingled the victim’s money with her own, but denied using any of his money intentionally.  Several days after her interview with police, she paid $2,600 into the joint account she held with the victim.  She told investigators the money was from the account she shared with her husband where there was “an abundance of money.”

Menke’s first court appearance is scheduled for October 22nd.

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