By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentine
Kevin Kavanaugh skimmed Purple Heart funds, jury findsA Milwaukee County jury Friday convicted
Kevin Kavanaugh of stealing more than $51,000 from money donated to help
veterans and their families.
Prosecutors said the 62-year-old Kavanaugh had skimmed the money from
bank deposits and phony withdrawals from accounts for the local chapter
of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a veterans service
Kavanaugh, of Cudahy, was treasurer of the group.
He didn't testify at the trial and said nothing following the
verdict. Sentencing on the felony conviction was sent for Dec. 7.
Kavanaugh, who had no prior criminal record, faces up to 10 years in
prison and a $25,000 fine.
Kavanaugh's attorney Christopher Hartley said circumstantial evidence in the form of many checks Kavanaugh cashed from
Purple Heart funds were difficult to overcome with jurors. No direct
evidence was presented showing that Kavanaugh spent the missing money or
salted it away for himself, Hartley said.
He argued to jurors that Kavanaugh regularly gave money - a few hundred dollars at a time - to needy veterans.
The biggest source of money Kavanaugh was accused of tapping was
donations made for Operation Freedom, an annual picnic and veterans
event at the zoo that Gov. Scott Walker hosted while he was Milwaukee
County executive. In 2006, Walker's county office arranged to have the
Operation Freedom donations and expenses run through the Purple Heart
chapter after being advised by county lawyers to have a separate
nonprofit handle the books rather than continue to have Walker aides do
Kavanaugh, who also worked as a counselor at the Zablocki Veterans
Administration Medical Center, had been named by Walker to the county
Veterans Service Commission.
Prosecutors said Kavanaugh went to elaborate lengths to conceal his
transactions and had witnesses testify they never received money
purportedly donated to them, as listed in his Purple Heart records.
"Why did he falsify the check stubs" to say money was going to
children of veterans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, asked
Assistant District Attorney Hanna Kolberg in her closing statement to
jurors. "Why did he refuse to open his books when asked" by a Purple
Heart auditor, Walker's chief of staff at the county and others, she
said. "Why did he purposely commingle" the Purple Heart money with his
"Because the defendant is a thief," Kolberg told jurors.
Hartley said Kavanaugh was just a terrible bookkeeper.
"Where is the proof?" he said. Kavanaugh "is not on trial for being a very bad bookkeeper."
Tom Nardelli, Walker's chief of staff at the county, testified
against Kavanaugh, saying he had made repeated attempts to meet with
Kavanaugh after being told there was some $11,000 missing from 2006
Operation Freedom funds. Those meetings always fell through, Nardelli
Nardelli said he went to Walker with concerns about the missing money
in 2009, and Walker told him to report it to the district attorney's
office. That led to a secret John Doe investigation, later broadened to
It was the second conviction from cases that grew from that probe this week. Former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch pleaded guilty
Thursday to felony misconduct in office for doing campaign work while
at her taxpayer-paid county job as Walker's deputy chief of staff.
In: Regional News, Other News, Politics
Tags: ex-walker, appointee, convicted, stealing, veterans
Location: Wisconsin, United States (load item map)
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