Money, handcuffs, gavel

RACINE — A Racine woman indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzling more than $775,000 from her late father’s Racine law firm — and using it to fund a gambling and drug problem — was sentenced Wednesday to serve 21 months in prison.

Kathleen A. Fetek, 56, originally pleaded not guilty to a single count of mail fraud, but later pleaded guilty to the charge on Nov. 1. In addition to prison time, Fetek will be on supervision for three years after her release. She was also ordered to pay $788,277 in restitution.

The mail fraud charge carried a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to the Eastern District of Wisconsin’s U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the indictment, Fetek worked for her attorney father, James Fetek, from 2012 until his death in 2016. By 2014, Kathleen Fetek reportedly took the money of beneficiaries and estates represented by Fetek Law Office and kept it for herself.

Fetek allegedly wrote checks to herself from the firm’s account, signing her mother’s name. She then cashed the checks at various locations, such as banks and liquor stores, and would prepare and mail “materially false distribution summaries and estate account documentation” to beneficiaries.

An FBI investigation uncovered Fetek’s plot after her father’s death, when Fetek provided the firm’s records to a new attorney. She provided checks she had cashed for herself that were altered to look as if they were written to beneficiaries.

The investigation later uncovered that Fetek had a gambling problem. Between January 2015 and December 2016, Fetek allegedly lost more than $212,000 at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.

Four years recommended

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On March 13, a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecuting attorney Richard Frohling recommended that Fetek spend 48 months behind bars for the incident.

“Fetek has no prior criminal history, has maintained employment and has assisted with raising her grandson,” Frohling stated in the document. “However, these positive attributes are outweighed by the seriousness of her offense, her abuse of a position of trust, her repeat acts of dishonesty and the financial and emotional impact on a large number of victims.”

Multiple victims provided comments expressing anger that Fetek had taken the money their loved ones had left behind and took advantage of their trust. “Why Kathy Fetek felt she had the right to take money from anybody ... is truly despicable,” one victim commented.

In addition to the $778,000 in checks written to herself, victims also reported that cash, jewelry and personal property also went missing from their deceased family members’ homes. Many times, the document states, Fetek served as the home’s listing real estate agent.

According to the document, the victims also said they were “particularly offended” that Fetek used a substantial portion of the stolen money to fund her “drug use and entertain herself through regular trips to the casino in Milwaukee.”

“While essentially practicing law with little or no supervision by her father, Ms. Fetek lied to the firm’s clients to perpetuate her fraud,” the document states. “This was a direct betrayal of the trust of the over 100 intended beneficiaries of the 24 impacted estates.”

“Why Kathy Fetek felt she had the right to take money from anybody ... is truly despicable.” Fraud victim’s testimony

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Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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