Tim Russell pleads guilty to embezzling “Operation Freedom” funds as John Doe investigation expands

Russell (left) and Walker fundraising

UPDATE: Tim Russell was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of extended supervision on January 22, 2013 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court for stealing money from the veterans group Heritage Guard Preservation Society.

When Scott Walker was Milwaukee County executive, former aide and fellow criminal Tim Russell embezzled thousands of dollars of “Operation Freedom” funds for he and his boyfriend Brian Pierick to go on expensive’ lavish trips to Jamaica, Hawaii and Herman Cain events in Georgia, buy various personal items, work on Walker’s gubernatorial websites and other criminal actions.

Walker posing at “Operation Freedom” event

“Operation Freedom” funds were supposed to go to veterans and their families who participated in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. According to records, Russell stole 50 cents of every donation dollar deposited into the fund. Walker had gone to many of the organization’s events and made sure to work the crowd of veterans, soldiers and their families for whatever they could contribute to then have the money managed by confidante Tim Russell, who gladly took the money.

However, Scott Walker had transferred the funding operations to Russell’s non-profit front operation “Heritage Guard Preservation Society” and stated on on Oct. 20, 2009: “I have identified a nonprofit corporation to which I am transferring Operation Freedom. This new structure will allow the community to take ownership of it.”

Tim Russell pleaded guilty Thursday to one felony count of stealing over $21,000 from veterans’ fund “Operation Freedom”, in exchange for the prosecution to drop two other counts against him.  Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney and prosecutor Bruce Landgraf said he will ask for no more than 30 months’ incarceration and 30 months’ extended supervision, a total of five years and will not to file any other charges against Russell.

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) – Governor Scott Walker’s election campaign says it condemns the actions taken by Walker’s former Milwaukee County aide Tim Russell.

The 49-year-old Russell pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of embezzling $21,000 from an annual event at the County Zoo which saluted Wisconsin veterans.

Walker’s camp said Russell, “took advantage of all the volunteers who worked so hard to honor military members.” Russell agreed to a plea deal which would send him to prison for two-and-a-half-years, and put him under extended supervision for another two-and-a-half years.

But the judge does not have to accept those terms when he sentences Russell on January 22nd.

Russell was scheduled to go on trial Monday, and his attorney Parker Mathers said, “a lot of good people will not have to testify for the defense.” He did not explain what he meant by that.

Russell was 1 of 5 ex-Walker aides and associates charged in a Milwaukee County John Doe probe which continues.

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The plea agreement calls for Russell to repay $28,000 as well as any jail time when he is sentenced January 22, 2013.

Russell is allegedly also responsible for a secret email system installed in Walker’s deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch’s office, located 25 feet from Walker’s office, and was “routinely used by selected insiders within the Walker administration … for both official and unofficial purposes (and) was never disclosed to county employees outside a closely held group within the Walker administration.”

Russell is the fourth Walker aide convicted in the continuing John Doe investigation. Kevin Kavanugh, Darlene Wink, Kelly Rindfleisch have been convicted as well.

Here is a great list from WisDems about what continues:

Seventeen Questions For Scott Walker

1.    Scott Walker has acknowledged that his campaign and his Milwaukee County office “routinely” coordinated on both matters of public (taxpayer) policy and campaign strategy, and stated that this coordination was neither unusual nor improper. Does, or did, Walker’s campaign similarly coordinate with the governor’s office?

2.    The extent to which the secret computer network installed in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office was used to conduct illegal campaign activity for Scott Walker’s benefit has been revealed as larger than perhaps originally thought. Does Scott Walker himself appear as a sender or recipient of any messages exchanged on this network, and has this practice been repeated into his current administration?

3.    Is Scott Walker in possession of digital and/or hard copies of any of these messages?

4.    Has Scott Walker been informed by state and/or federal prosecutors that he definitively is NOT a target of this investigation, and/or that he will NOT be charged with criminal misconduct related to this investigation?

5.    Why did Scott Walker think it was appropriate and/or lawful for his campaign to direct Milwaukee County policy, as it was revealed in the Kelly Rindfleisch sentencing?

6.    Why did Scott Walker think it was appropriate and/or lawful to compel County employees to misuse taxpayer resources to participate in campaign activity on his behalf?

7.    Did Scott Walker direct any County employees to suppress, hide or destroy evidence related to the O’Donnell Park tragedy, as apparently suggested by his campaign manager, Keith Gilkes?

8.    Did Scott Walker believe it was appropriate and/or lawful for him to personally review, approve and authorize County press releases drafted by his campaign?

9.    Did Scott Walker believe it was appropriate and/or lawful for him to personally review, approve and authorize campaign material drafted by his County staff?

10.  Does Scott Walker believe the Milwaukee County taxpayers should be reimbursed for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in County resources that were illegally used to advance the Walker campaign?

11.  Has Scott Walker directed any more funds into his criminal defense fund?

12.  In light of new revelations that implicate Scott Walker as a knowing and willing party to the illegal campaign activity carried out on his behalf, will Scott Walker agree to disclose the identities of his criminal defense fund donors in advance of the statutorily required deadline for such disclosure?

13.  Did Scott Walker personally approve payments to John Doe figures facing prosecution from his campaign and/or from entities associated with the Republican Party of Wisconsin?

14.  As was evidenced in Milwaukee County, is Scott Walker or his administration causing the subversion of Open Records laws for his political gain?

15.  What has Scott Walker been told about his role in the John Doe criminal corruption probes?

16.  Why does Scott Walker believe it is appropriate for a sitting governor to challenge the judicial independence of a John Doe proceeding?

17.  Scott Walker confirmed that he was a daily participant on 8:00 a.m. calls between his campaign and County staffs, including Kelly Rindfleisch. How was he unaware that Kelly Rindfleisch was campaigning on taxpayer time when he was participating in the very same activity?