Wisconsin Operating Engineers Accountant Pleads No Contest to $450K+ in Thefts

Sandra Jungbluth had a chaotic domestic life. But that wasn’t a sufficient excuse for ripping off the union whose benefits she handled. On or about last December 8, Jungbluth, formerly an accountant for a firm managing benefit funds for the Wisconsin state affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), stated her intention to plead no contest to stealing more than $450,000 in union funds over some nine years. She allegedly had forged the signature of a company vice president. As part of a plea agreement, two of the three charges in the criminal complaint would be dismissed, but considered by the judge at sentencing. She faces up to five years in prison, plus five years of supervised probation.

Prosecutors for the State of Wisconsin had charged that Jungbluth, now 38, a resident of Waukesha (west of Milwaukee), used her position as an accountant with the Milwaukee office of the Columbia, Md.-based Carday Associates to divert benefit funds of the Wisconsin Operating Engineers to herself or a former boyfriend. Her modus operandi was stamping a signature of approval bearing the name of Carday Vice President Mary Jane DeBattista. The unauthorized checks were small enough – typically $2,500 – to avoid detection. Eventually, her stealth caught up. On February 4, 2011, DeBattista and another Carday executive met with a Waukesha County sheriff’s investigator, telling the investigator they had discovered eight $2,500 checks cashed by Jungbluth from November 29, 2010 to January 26, 2011. Jungbluth would be arrested that day. The discovery led to a full probe of the Wisconsin Operating Engineers account. The hunch paid off. Jungbluth had written out to herself and cashed another 154 checks dating back to July 12, 2004 and totaling $373,500. And that didn’t include the more than 50 checks she wrote during 2002-04 for a combined $68,000 to a boyfriend.

The lady has led an unusual home life. During the entire duration of her embezzlement, Jungbluth, an immigrant and a resident of the U.S. for nearly 20 years, was legally married to Thomas Jungbluth, though the couple had separated about a decade prior to her arrest. The recipient of the aforementioned $68,000 was Deepak Prabhakar, a boyfriend with whom she was living at the time. Just before this relationship but just after her marital separation, there was another boyfriend, one Alex Prabkar, a Kuwaiti national attending the Milwaukee School of Engineering; the couple had met at a Milwaukee nightclub. The relationship didn’t last long. The impression did. A state circuit court document stamped with the date February 7, 2011 quoted Jungbluth as saying that Prabkar was “obsessive and possessive.” Prabkar reportedly told Jungbluth to embezzle from the Carday-managed IUOE account in increments of $2,500. According to the document, “She claimed that she has been doing this because she is afraid of Alex.” Yet even assuming this claim is true, that doesn’t explain why for many years after their breakup, she continued to steal. A “Stockholm Syndrome” defense would have been a tough sell for a jury. Jungbluth, at least, has personally apologized to her ex-boss, Mary Jane DeBattista. That might help at sentencing.