Gavel

The founder of a Chippewa Valley-based cancer advocacy organization is accused of embezzling at least $36,000 from the group.

Renelle L. Laffe, 39, W2531 Cedar Road, was charged Wednesday in Eau Claire County Court with a felony count of theft from a business setting.

A $5,000 signature bond was set for Laffe, which prohibits her from accepting or dispersing money for Hope in the Valley.

Laffe returns to court Sept. 3.

According to the criminal complaint:

Eau Claire police received information Jan. 16 from a confidential source that Laffe was using Hope in the Valley funds for her own personal financial gain.

Laffe is the founder of Hope in the Valley. She is the only person listed on the organization’s account and the only one with permission to make transactions on the account.

In examining Hope in the Valley’s account at Charter Bank, police found numerous transactions that appeared to be for personal use.

Multiple checks from the account were written to Angelus Salon and Spa or to Laffe.

Laffe is the owner of Angelus Salon and Spa.

Police determined there was more than $20,000 in checks from the Hope in the Valley account that were written to Laffe or her business.

Some of the money was used to pay for her business’ water bill, advertising for her business, closing costs for her home, gym memberships for her boyfriend and his son, golf and food at an Eau Claire golf course, and for her personal RV loan.

Laffe also used money from the Hope in the Valley account to pay for luggage for a trip to Mexico and for meals and lodging while she was at a work conference in Chicago on behalf of her business.

During an interview with police, Laffe said she was a “terrible bookkeeper.”

On certain transactions, Laffe claims she forgot her personal checkbook or debit card to make the transactions.

Laffe told police she couldn’t recall why she would have used the Hope in the Valley account for many of the personal transactions.

Police determined Laffe used $66,894 from the Hope in the Valley account for personal purposes.

But she paid back $22,000 to the Hope in the Valley account from her personal account.

Laffe also made an $8,800 donation to Joshua’s Camp from her personal account on behalf of Hope in the Valley.

Police determined the amount taken from the charitable account that was not reimbursed totaled $36,006.

The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival was a joint partnership between Hope in the Valley and Mayo Clinic Health System.

Mayo canceled this year’s fifth annual event, citing a declining number of participants.

If convicted of the felony charge, Laffe could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Contact: 715-833-9207, dan.holtz@ecpc.com