Milton woman pleads guilty in theft prosecutors say totals $1.57 million

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Kevin Murphy/Special to The Gazette
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

MADISON--A former office manager at a Janesville medical billing firm pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to a theft that prosecutors say totals more than $1.57 million from the company where she worked.

Brenda L. Werfal, 55, Milton, took the funds by forging an undisclosed number of checks from Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates in 2010 and 2011, Assistant U.S. Attorney Munish Sharda said.

Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates, which employs about 30 emergency room physicians and physician assistants working in Wisconsin hospitals, hired Werfal in 1988. Five years later, she went to work as an office manager for Specialty Billing Services, which processes Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates payroll.

Specialty Billing Services receives payment from third party insurers for services performed by Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates and processes Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates payroll.

Werfal was responsible for completing Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates payroll, according to court documents.

Werfal admitted in court to forging three checks drawn from a Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates accounts in 2010 and 2011 and totaling $13,720. She used the money to pay medical and dental expenses and an $11,995 tax bill, according to court documents.

During the investigation, Werfal admitted repeated forgeries and didn't dispute that she stole $1.57 million from the company, Sharda said.

Although she is charged with only three counts of forgery totaling $13,720, the judge at sentencing can consider that she didn't dispute the government's allegation that she stole $1.57 million.

Werfal told District Judge Barbara Crabb she paid Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates bills by writing checks and using a signature stamp of a company official. She used the same procedure to pay her own bills but without authorization of any company official.

Crabb set Werfal's sentencing for Nov. 26 and released her on standard conditions.

She faces maximum of 10 years in prison plus three years on supervised release. She also could be ordered to pay restitution.

After court, neither Sharda nor Werfal's attorney, Jack Hoag, would discuss how Werfal's scheme was discovered. Sharda also declined to state the number of checks involved in the scheme or what Werfal purchased with the money, saying only that she bought “stuff.”

Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates and Specialty Billing Services share a phone number and the street address of 1446 N. Randall Ave., Janesville. No one at Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates on Tuesday was authorized to speak about Werfal, according to a woman who answered the phone.

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