An initial call on Oct. 25, 2018 from the Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) informed the Ellsworth Police Department about an alleged case of funds abuse for a Guardian of Estate account.
The account, made for an Atrium Post Acute Care resident, was signed over to the man's son, Erick L. Langer of Ellsworth, in August 2017. As Guardian of Estate, Langer was responsible for paying the care center for his father's care with a checking account where social security checks were deposited.
After some investigation into alleged reports of potential elder exploitation from Associated Bank, police identified the 44-year-old to have been abusing the account since June 1, 2018 when payments to the care center ceased.
Police allege Langer had signed off on internal transfers from the guardian account to his old business account for E-Corner Liquor and written personal checks from the guardian account, benefitting from a total of $4,765.36.
An arrest warrant was issued on March 26 after Langer failed to appear on March 25 for his initial appearance. Langer posted a $10,000 signature bond on March 28 in Pierce County Circuit Court.
Langer is being charged with theft from a business setting, a class I felony. A preliminary hearing is set for 11:30 a.m. May 6 at the Pierce County Courthouse.
According to the criminal complaint:
A counselor from the Pierce County ADRC reported abuse of funds on Oct. 25, explaining how the account functioned to pay the Atrium Post Acute Care for a resident.
The resident, Langer's father, had been at the care center in Ellsworth since 2013. His wife was the original guardian of the account until her death in August 2017, after which Langer was signed over as guardian. Langer's wife had been writing checks to the care center but the responsibility was passed on to Langer during the summer of 2018.
The ADRC counselor said the June 2018 payment to the care center was not sent and the resident was three months behind on payments.
Associated Bank reports first show signs of funds abuse on June 1, 2018 when Langer made an internal teller withdrawal of $1,270 from his father's account to an old business account.
The business account, which had been opened on May 3, 2017, was for E-Corner Liquor, owned by Langer, which was no longer in business because of the lack of financial support.
Other reports from Associated Bank show Langer wrote out 23 personal checks in September and October payable to Cenex station, most which were around $50 except one larger check for $114.33 on which the clerk wrote a driver's license number, phone number and initials.
A later interview with the clerk revealed Langer's checks were used to purchase items like alcohol, cigarettes and food.
Other checks were written out to Walter's Heating and Electric for $200 and DS Liquor for $37.10.
Langer also made two cash withdrawals, one for $200 on Sept. 12 and one for $754 on Sept. 25.
An officer made initial contact with Langer on Oct. 25, 2018 where he admitted to writing checks using his father's account and also falling behind on payments to the care center.
The checks were put toward payments for a new furnace and water heater, Langer said, which is something he "had to do" since the farm was owned by his dad.
The furnace was bought from the old Freier's, or Comfort By Design, Langer said, and that he is "basically robbing Peter to pay Paul... just trying to pack it back... overcompensating for dad."
When questioned, Langer said at first he was not using the Guardian of Estate account for anything other than payments for his father's property, which was justified. He also said his business account was shut down when the business failed, about three or four months ago.
After some discussion, he admitted to using his father's account to pay for diesel fuel and food at Cenex and said he "didn't think he was supposed to" use the account as he did.
The officer asked him if he transferred money to his business account and Langer said he didn't recall that. He said too many people were staying at his place and the electric was shut off, which cost $1,200 to have it turned back on.
In response to the officer's question if that was where the $1,200 went to his business account, Langer allegedly said "it very well could have... that's probably about right."
Langer gave the officer permission to see the checkbook and said his wife had not been using the account. Other checks were found, including one which exceeded $500 for Pierce Pepin Cooperative.
Langer also said the funds he was using were from his father's social security checks, which kept his personal checks from bouncing.
The officer gave Langer his phone to make a call to the ADRC to set up an appointment and told him to refrain from writing more checks. The checkbook was left with Langer.