Milwaukee County Register of Deeds misused public money, documents say
La Fave was the Register of Deeds from 2003 until April 12, 2019 when he retired.
The Register of Deeds is an elected position in charge of maintaining county records.
The FBI raided the office in February.
Court documents say La Fave was involved in a "false invoice scheme" from 2010 to 2017.
Emails show La Fave would ask Superior Support Resources (SSR), a Brookfield technology company that worked with Milwaukee County, to create "false invoices for work not performed by SSR."
SSR would then hold onto the money and La Fave would use it to pay for "third-party vendors" not authorized by the county.
It is not clear what La Fave purchased with the money but court documents say it included paying employees of the Register of Deeds and for his "own projects."
In total investigators believe the false invoices from SSR totaled up to more than $2.3 million.
SSR released this statement:
“Superior Support Resources, Inc. has done work for the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds for many years. Our work was related to indexing documents and redacting private information. Earlier this year, the FBI came to our office to get a variety of records and seek additional information about our client.
We are cooperating fully with the authorities and plan to continue that cooperation. We are confident we have not done anything improper, and we are performing an internal investigation to verify as such. At this point, we have not seen anything that is of concern.
SSR has built a reputation based on ethical and honest business practices, and we have worked hard since our founding more than 20 years ago to become Wisconsin’s most trusted technology partner. We hold ourselves to a high standard of professionalism and ethics, and we are proud to have earned the trust of our clients and business partners. Our commitment to ethical business practices continues to hold true, and that will never change.”
- Sarit Singhal, President and CEO of Superior Support Resources, Inc.,
SSR was not the only company involved in this scheme.
Investigators say La Fave spent the money the County earned through their partnership with Fidlar Technologies, instead of putting it in the Register of Deeds Office annual budget which "helps reduce the needed tax levy."
A former employee of Fidlar told investigators she was told, "What John La Fave wanted, John La Fave got."
La Fave was not available for comment Wednesday, however, his attorney did release the following statement:
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court rules preclude me from commenting on an ongoing matter,” La Fave’s Attorney, Michael S Maistelman, said.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele released this statement:
“On behalf of the people of Milwaukee, I’m angry at what was not just a theft of public resources, but a betrayal of public trust. The many incredible public servants I get to work with at the County work hard every day to provide the best service we can, make the most responsible use of the public dollars, and take pride in doing that very well.
The Governor appoints the Register of Deeds and I have already conveyed to him that I would like someone I know I can work with aggressively towards the most transparent, accountable, and efficient R.O.D. office we can have. I am absolutely committed to doing everything in my power to help the appointee do exactly that. The public deserves no less.”