Former Baird employee sentenced for tax withholding scheme

Receives six months in prison


One of two former Robert W. Baird & Co. employees who exchanged login information to manipulate tax withholding information and steal more than $1.1 million from the company has been sentenced in federal court.

Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.’s headquarters is in the U.S. Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee.

Rochelle Matthews was sentenced last week to six months in prison and another three years of supervised release. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of wire fraud. Sentencing guidelines called for her to receive 41 to 51 months in prison and one to three years of supervised release.

According to court documents, Matthews and Linda Whitmore, a former Baird payroll associate, exchanged login information to get around internal controls and inflate their tax withholding. The duo used Baird liability accounts to cover the funds and over a seven year period, the court documents indicate Matthews received nearly $680,000 and Whitmore received roughly $440,000.

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In a sentencing memorandum, Robert LeBell, Matthews’ attorney, said the former financial system manager at Baird “fell into a deep, all encompassing depression” following treatment for breast cancer in 2006 and also developed a gambling addiction.

“Gambling became a safe harbor from her depression and allowed her to engage in mindless, albeit devastatingly damaging behavior,” LeBell wrote to the court, adding the thefts from Baird were not the result of any animus towards the company. “It was a purely opportunistic means to engage in conduct which gave temporary relief from her own emotional demons.”

According to LeBell, Matthews fed hundreds of thousands of dollars into slot machines at Potawatomi Casino from 2009 through 2011. In one visit she fed more than $42,000 and averaged $31,000 across seven visits to the casino.

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“It is noteworthy that the records of Potawatomi reflect a paucity of winnings given the vast sum of gambling money which was lost,” LeBell wrote. “It is clear that the gambling was compulsive and out of control.”

LeBell argued Matthews had gone from “a lifestyle of impeccable behavior to a period of dishonesty” that was the result of her cancer, depression and gambling addiction. He argued against her incarceration, noting it would take her away from the Gamblers Anonymous group she has been a part of and her elderly parents who she has been caring for.

Whitmore has a sentencing hearing scheduled next week. The two women also submitted letters of acceptance, waiver and consent with FINRA in 2014 barring them from association with any members.

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