Janesville man sentenced for record-setting theft

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—A Janesville man is going to prison for what was likely the biggest theft in the history of Rock County crime.

Steven R. Stoikes, 44, cost his former employer, Butters-Fetting of Janesville, $1.8 million.

Stoikes sobbed in Rock County Court on Wednesday as he apologized to his family.

Judge James Daley nevertheless said a message had to be sent. He sentenced Stoikes to two years and six months in prison, followed by five years of probation.

Stoikes also is eligible for the earned-release program, in which he can petition for release after serving 75 percent of his prison term. Daley would have to approve the release.

Daley said he could not remember a bigger theft in more than 30 years. Longtime District Attorney David O'Leary said he could not remember a bigger theft, either.

Daley and assistant public defender Walt Isaacson agreed Stoikes would never be able to pay back the money. Daley ordered full restitution, nevertheless.

Stoikes ordered more copper tubing than was needed for jobs contracted by his employer, cut it up and sold it for scrap, according to court documents.

The thefts continued for more than seven years.

The $1.8 million includes $200,000 owed to the insurance company that covered a portion of the losses. The remaining $1.6 million was a direct loss to Butters-Fetting.

Stoikes visited a Ho-Chunk casino 514 times from October 2006 to August 2012, wagered about $24 million during that time and lost more than $3 million, according to Ho-Chunk records, Daley said.

“He was gambling it all away,” O'Leary said as he argued for an eight-year sentence, including three years in prison.

O'Leary urged the judge to send “a clear message to the public that thefts of this nature need to be punished by a prison sentence.”

Isaacson argued for time in the Rock County Jail and probation.

O'Leary said jail time would likely mean Stoikes would be released with an electronic monitoring bracelet, minimizing the punishment.

Isaacson responded that Daley could order no release from jail.

O'Leary said Stoikes had tried to kill himself through asphyxiation—Daley mentioned carbon monoxide poisoning—which led to what Daley called “mental deficits.”

Stoikes should not be let off the hook because of diminished mental capacity, O'Leary said.

Isaacson argued that Stoikes has worked hard on his gambling addiction, getting treatment through the Veterans Administration and going to Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Stoikes has become a volunteer at Janesville's Rotary Botanical Gardens, giving 150 hours of service over two years, Isaacson said, and he has a job offer pending.

Stoikes' son and daughters are ashamed of him, Isaacson said, and “I can't think of anything worse than my children being ashamed of me.”

Stoikes is motivated to mend those relationships, Isaacson said.

Stoikes, in short-cropped hair, pressed white shirt and dress pants, read letters of apology to his employer, his wife and children, and his parents, siblings and friends. No one other than O'Leary spoke for the victim.

Stoikes said he tried to buy his children's love with money, and the time he spent gambling is lost to his wife and children.

He has left his family living on a limited income, he said.

To his parents, he said: “I let them think they raised a thief. I damaged the family name.”

He is on track to returning to a “normal life” and being “a productive member of society, given a chance,” Stoikes said.

Daley noted Stoikes is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, has an honorable discharge from the military, held a job most of his adult life and is working to improve himself.

But the community will demand punishment for such a crime, Daley said.

Stoikes might have felt pressure to make more money, Daley said, “but not everybody steals to meet those pressures.”

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