ELM GROVE — A former employee of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Elm Grove was charged with felony theft on Jan. 11 and faces a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Rosanne M. Harmeyer, 61, of Lannon allegedly embezzled $12,112.25 from the SSND between Nov. 1, 2015 and Aug. 31, 2016.
Sr. Mary Anne Owens, Provincial Leader of the SSND Central Pacific Province, acknowledged the incident in a statement released to the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, saying Harmeyer was an employee in the finance department.
“We are working with local law enforcement, the bank and our insurance company to fairly and justly resolve this situation. In addition, we have instituted additional procedures to prevent a similar occurrence in the future,” she said. “We approach this situation in the spirit of love and reconciliation and we pray for all involved as we work toward justice, forgiveness and peace.”
The matter has been under investigation since Sept. 21, 2016, when Dana Russart, CFO for the Elm Grove SSND, alerted authorities that Harmeyer “altered or manipulated payroll and voided checks, making all 29 checks payable to herself for a variety of dollar amounts,” according to the criminal complaint. Only Russart and one other employee, not Harmeyer, were authorized to approve and sign checks.
“A check would come across as voided in the check registry, but she would actually make it a valid check then, made out to herself,” said Jason Hennen, assistant chief of the Elm Grove Police Department.
Harmeyer was questioned by Det. Craig Mayer of the Elm Grove Police Department on Jan. 10, and confessed to the crime, saying she used the money to help pay her bills and groceries. The criminal complaint reveals that Harmeyer was “upset that all the sisters got a monthly stipend and could buy whatever they wanted.”
The SSND declined to say how long Harmeyer had been working for them, although a Facebook profile attributed to a Rosanne Harmeyer lists SSND as her former employer beginning in 2011. Hennen said that she worked underneath CFO Russart.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame is an international congregation of more than 2,500 religious in over 30 countries. The Central Pacific Province (SSNDCP) includes sisters who live and minister in 59 dioceses, 23 states, the U.S. territory of Guam, Italy, Japan and Nepal. The order was founded in 1833 by Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger. They sponsor Milwaukee’s Mount Mary University.
The SSND community in Elm Grove is a retirement and health care center for aging sisters, said SSND director of communications Trudy Hamilton.
Harmeyer was arrested on Jan. 10 and appeared the next day before Judicial Court Commissioner Laura Lau. She was released on $2,500 bond with a court date of Jan. 19 and forbidden to have contact with the SSND.