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Edgerton man facing charges in two states

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 22, 2011

An Edgerton native with a local history of fraud and harassment now is accused of bilking more than $30,000 from two Sheboygan residents, one of whom is mentally disabled.


Joseph W. Murphy, 44, also faces charges in Iowa, where he is in jail on suspicion of stealing $28,000 from a credit union by writing fraudulent checks. He faces numerous other charges there, including one for violating a protective order.


Murphy also has pending felony theft charges in Marathon and Green counties.


Murphy has been in and out of prison on theft and probation violation cases and often has sought out media attention.


In 1997, for example, he made national news after he complained to the media that the Social Security Administration branch in Janesville did not protect him from himself when it gave him almost $50,000 in back benefits. Murphy claimed he had a gambling problem and that he gambled away the money.


In the recent Sheboygan County case, a 47-year-old Sheboygan man told police he contacted Murphy so the man could get disability payments. Murphy listed himself in the yellow pages under American Disability Entitlements.


According to the complaint, Murphy over several weeks pressured the man to give him about $30,000.


The man’s brother told police that his brother has “mental disabilities,” according to the complaint.


The complaint also alleges that a 30-year-old Sheboygan County woman gave Murphy about $3,000 after calling American Disability Entitlements last year after a car accident. Murphy took $3,000 from the woman but never filed a claim with Social Security and never followed through on promises to pay her back, according to the complaint.


In January 2009, Murphy aired a commercial in the Janesville area advertising the same company and seeking clients.


On TV, Murphy’s image was superimposed on the American flag.


“Twenty-five years ago I was disabled and unable to work,” Murphy said in the commercial. “I was frustrated with the red legal tape, so I researched the Social Security laws and what I was entitled to. And I was just one case.


“Did you know there are up to 75,000 new disability claims in Wisconsin per year? If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition and are having trouble collecting Social Security disability benefits, please give me a call. I’m the little guy who will fight for what you are entitled to.”


Murphy, who had been on probation beginning in the 1990s until at least 2000, was no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections when the commercial aired here in early 2009. At the time, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said officials could do nothing because Murphy had not violated any laws by airing the commercial.


It is not known what channel the commercial aired on, but Channel 47 in Madison filed a small claims court case against Murphy in Dane County Court on Feb. 25.


The most serious charge in Sheboygan County of theft by fraud carries a fine of no more than $25,000 and prison of not more than 10 years, or both.


JOSEPH MURPHY HISTORY

These are some of the events in Joe Murphy’s life:


-- Convicted in 1984 at the age of 17 of armed robbery of a gas station. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and four years of probation.


-- Sued the Milton School Board in 1985 because the board expelled him for disruptive behavior. The suit made national news.


-- Convinced Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1988 to grant him a pardon for the armed robbery so Murphy could run for a seat on the Janesville School Board. Murphy ran in 1987 and again in 1988 but was not elected.


-- Turned on Thompson when Murphy said he played politics to win the executive clemency. Thompson admitted he had made a mistake in granting the pardon.


-- Convicted in 1993 in Walworth County of felony theft after he drove home a new car after buying it with a worthless check. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after appealing the sentence and placed on probation for 10 years.


-- Arrested for defrauding an innkeeper in 1992.


-- Arrested for drunken driving in 1996.


-- Made national news in 1997 after he complained to the media that the Social Security Administration branch in Janesville did not protect him from himself when it gave him almost $50,000 in back benefits. Murphy claimed he had a gambling problem and that he gambled away the money.


-- Was returned to prison in February 1998 after violating terms of his probation by drinking. He was released in 1999.


-- While on probation, he convinced a Lone Rock woman to lend him $55,000 after misrepresenting himself on a dating service, a violation of his parole.


-- Accused in 2000 of bilking a woman out of more than $68,000 after a short courtship and marriage. Earlier that year, he was ticketed for making harassing phone calls to another woman.


-- Filed a $250,000 claim in 2000 against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, accusing a probation and parole agent of taking advantage of him by accepting $3,000 in cash and gifts and $1,500 in cigarettes. The department did not get back to the Gazette with information about the disposition of that case by the paper’s deadline Thursday.



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