Former Wisconsin probation agent charged with pocketing nearly $13K in restitution money

A former state probation agent is facing felony charges after being accused of intercepting and pocketing $12,900 in restitution payments that were supposed to go to a crime victim.

Online court records indicate an arrest warrant was issued Friday for Thursday Booker, 39, of Milwaukee, who worked for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Booker is charged with misconduct in public office, theft in a business setting between $10,000 and $100,000, money laundering, unauthorized use of personal identifying information or documents, and forgery, all felonies.

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One of Booker's duties with the DOC included collecting payments from her probationers to pay for court costs, supervision fees and restitution payments.

One of her probationers was a man, identified in the complaint as RP, who wanted to provide extra financial support for the victim of his crime, despite having no outstanding restitution order or court fees. He gave money orders to Booker with the agreement she'd provide them to the victim.

Police allege she instead kept the money orders and used them to cover her own personal expenses between May 2022 and October 2023.

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Online court records don't indicate whether she has an attorney representing her. Beth Hardtke, director of communications for the corrections department, said Booker resigned about two months ago.

According to a May 16 complaint:

Booker was assigned to supervise RP in early 2021 until November, when he was assigned to a new agent.

On Nov. 17, the man gave a $500 money order to the new agent to give to his victim. It's not clear what crime RP committed. The new agent discovered RP didn't owe any money. He insisted that the money order be turned over to the victim just as he had been doing the past year.

That triggered an investigation.

In January, RP told investigators he received a letter in 2022 from the victim of his crime, stating she had forgiven him. She went on to tell him about what her current life was like.

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The complaint said RP felt bad about his previous actions and wanted to provide financial assistance to his victim, and asked Booker about providing money orders.

Booker's probationer was under the assumption that if he gave money to Booker, she would give them to the victim. It was a process that was used to pay the court-ordered restitution, after all.

RP gave Booker multiple money orders over time; she'd pick them up at his home.

The victim told investigators she had never been offered any additional money, outside the court-ordered restitution, nor had she ever gotten any extra cash from the Department of Corrections, the complaint said.

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Program notes from the corrections department from RP's April 7, 2022, visit indicated he received a letter from his victim thanking him for paying full restitution.

Another note, on April 27, 2022, showed he wanted to provide extra financial help for her. Booker wrote in that note it would be OK to do so, as long as RP doesn't contact the victim, the document said.

After May of 2022, when the misappropriation allegedly began, Booker did not note any additional payments by RP, except for a $360 supervision payment on Feb. 6, 2023, according to the complaint.

Booker began noting in her program notes after May 23, 2023, that RP had paid all supervision fees and restitution and that he had a “credit” on his account.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Former Wisconsin probation agent reportedly stole restitution money