A Whitewater woman pleaded guilty to theft and agreed Wednesday to make monthly restitution payments inching toward the $50,000 she gradually stole from an elderly Rock County resident she called a friend.
Rock County Judge Barbara McCrory agreed to adopt the plea agreement for Susan K. Salyers, 59, of 323 S. Scott St., and sentenced her to four years of probation.
Salyers, per the agreement, pleaded guilty to one count each of theft and identity theft. Other charges were dismissed and read into the record.
The agreement calls for Salyers to pay back $100 per month during her four years of probation, as well as to direct her state and federal tax refunds toward restitution.
Both sides plan to convene at the end of Salyers’ probation term to determine if she made a “good-faith effort” to pay the restitution, as it is possible the Department of Corrections could ask for an extension of probation if a lot of the $50,000 is still unpaid.
But her attorney said Wednesday he thought, given his client’s “very limited means,” the plan they set up was reasonable.
The case was first reported to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office in January, but the thefts occurred between October 2017 and December 2019.
Defense attorney Matthew Lantta said the victim helped Salyers financially, and Salyers also helped the victim, such as by taking her to appointments.
“As friends would,” he said.
Salyers met the victim while she was working, Lantta said, and she had no intent to defraud her friend when they first met. At some point, he said Salyers started to think the victim wouldn’t object to her writing checks herself.
Assistant District Attorney James Woywod said authorities identified about 42 checks that Salyers signed with the victim’s name without her authorization.
While Lantta said they disagreed with the prosecution about the number of checks that were fraudulent, he said his client didn’t want to add to the victim’s burden by seeking a trial or restitution hearing.
“She is extremely embarrassed and apologetic,” Lantta said.
Salyers declined to speak during the hearing. At one point, she got up to grab a tissue and wipe her face.
Woywod said the victim in the case was in a “vulnerable position” and thought of Salyers as a friend. The victim’s trust was “violated in a serious way,” he said.
But Salyers is older than most people who come through the justice system, and he said her criminal record is limited to a second intoxicated-driving offense.
The prosecutor also mentioned the possibility of incarceration if Salyers fails during her probation.
“It’s my hope that we don’t get there,” he said.