Treasurer of alumni group charged with theft of $190,000

Complaint says money was diverted to her Amway business

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/September 18, 2002
By Jeff Cole

Port Washington - The treasurer for a group of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumni has been charged with stealing more than $190,000 earmarked for scholarships and computer donations and using it for her Amway business.

Amway is a company with headquarters in Michigan that uses a sales force of 3.3 million people to sell more than 450 products. The Tax Association of Milwaukee is composed of graduates of the master's program in taxation offered by UWM.

Sana Jennings-Fossum, 41, of the Town of Grafton was charged with nine counts of felony theft and faces up to 27 years in prison and a $90,000 fine if convicted.

A criminal complaint filed in Ozaukee County Circuit Court alleges that Jennings-Fossum stole the money over nine transactions dating back to 1998 in her role as treasurer of the Tax Association of Milwaukee.

According to the complaint, the money was deposited into either her husband's bank account or the couple's joint account. In one case, $14,178 was paid out of the association's accounts to Amway Corp. In all, Jennings-Fossum is charged with taking $190,382.

Jennings-Fossum did not return a reporter's phone calls seeking comment. Her husband has not been charged.

Jennings-Fossum and her husband, Michael, are Amway distributors. A call to the company's Michigan headquarters Wednesday confirmed that the couple sell the company's products. Amway uses a sales force of 3.3 million people to sell more than 450 products, ranging from vitamins to laundry products.

The tax group's president told investigators that "the Tax Association has never incurred an expense with Amway, nor has such payment ever been authorized," the complaint says.

According to the criminal complaint, when Ozaukee County Sheriff's Department Detective David Guss interviewed Jennings-Fossum, she said she was making purchases for the association for a banquet that had never taken place. Guss said she asked whether what she had done was criminal.

"It was explained to her that she benefited from the transactions in two ways, first that she didn't use her own money to purchase the products and, secondly, she and her husband were receiving commission and bonuses for the amount of purchased sales that had been transacted by Amway Corp., and finally, she was not authorized to do those transactions," the complaint says.

Jennings-Fossum also asked that Guss not discuss the investigation with the group's board because "she feared that the board's knowledge of what occurred may cause her to be unemployable within the accounting field."

She is scheduled to make her first appearance in court Oct. 24 before Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram.

Volunteer group of UWM grads

The alumni group's members are graduates of the master's program in taxation offered by UWM, said its president, Robert Moczulewski. All its officers and members work for the group on a volunteer basis.

The group used to draw a significant income from a special publication known as the Multistate Tax Guide, Moczulewski said. The publication goes to accountants and tax preparers throughout the United States.

"Back in the early 1980s, a professor in the business school created the publication and gave the publication rights to the association," Moczulewski said. "The money raised from sale of the publication goes to help students in the master's tax program. It pays for scholarships, computers, things like that. It was a fairly lucrative publication."

Moczulewski would not say how profitable the publication was for the group. However, the complaint notes Moczulewski told investigators that there was a question about an $83,000 royalty check that was made out to the association.

About three years ago, the association turned the rights to the publication over to UWM, Moczulewski said.

According to the complaint, it was Moczulewski who called the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Department when he noticed odd things going on with the group's bank account.

Moczulewski showed Guss a withdrawal slip showing that $35,000 had been taken from the group's account on Dec. 5, 1999, and paid to Fossum Enterprises. On that same day, a $35,000 deposit was made in an account listed as belonging to Michael G. Fossum.

Moczulewski said in the complaint that no one in the group had authorized doing business with Fossum Enterprises.

Guss was then able to document other questionable transactions, the complaint says.

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