A woman has been charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult for alleged actions committed while she worked in the Nicollet County Health and Human Services Department.

Stephanie Jelyn Menke, 33, of St. Peter, is charged with felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Menke stopped working for the county in June, according to county staff emails. The actions alleged in the complaint were not related to her work at the county.

In April, the St. Peter Police Department began investigating a report that a 49-year-old vulnerable adult, the alleged victim, was $2,089 behind on payments. The victim reportedly has down syndrome and cannot read or write, and their sole income is from social security.

A supervisor of the victim found that a $625 withdrawal had been made on April 8, which caused the account to be overdrawn by $525.57. Menke reportedly admitted to making the withdrawal and said it was for a family vacation, but she said it was mistakenly taken from the wrong bank account.

Menke reportedly became the payee in February 2018, the same time she became guardian of the victim. The victim’s account reportedly had about $2,270 inside when Menke became payee.

According to the complaint, over the next year, the victim had about $15,000 in income and about $13,000 in expenses. This should’ve resulted in a checkbook balance of about $2,000, but instead the account was overdrawn, with over $2,600 unaccounted for.

Menke was interviewed by investigators from the St. Peter Police Department and Blue Earth County Human Services Department. According to the complaint, investigators found that Menke maintained three bank accounts, and that she had moved money from an account she and the victim shared to two other accounts. One of the accounts was reportedly in a town 57 miles away and was listed under Menke’s maiden name.

Menke reportedly admitted to commingling the victim’s money with her own and said she never intended to spend the victim’s money without permission. She also reportedly told investigators that the payee role was “very confusing to her.” A few days after her second interview with investigators, Menke reportedly paid $2,600 into the joint account with the victim, and said it came from one of the other accounts that she said had “an abundance of money,” according to the complaint.

Menke was a social worker in the Nicollet County Health and Human Services Department, who was helping lead the development of a new coalition — Adolescent Chemical Wellness Advocates, formerly the Nicollet Alliance for Prevention Against Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (NAPAA). In a June 26 email directed to coalition members and followers, the Nicollet County Health and Human Services director said, “I need to share with members of ACWA that Stephanie Menke is no longer employed by Nicollet County.”

Nicollet County leaders declined to comment for this story.

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe.

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St. Peter Herald, Waseca County News and Le Sueur County News managing editor. Email at editor@stpeterherald.com. Call at 507-931-8567.

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