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RACINE — The executive director of the Cedarburg Art Museum remains in the Racine County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond after being accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from Sonnenberg Schools for autistic students.

Heather Wenthold, 42, of Cedarburg, was charged Thursday, August 24, in Racine County Circuit Court with three felony counts of embezzlement, one felony count of identity theft, five counts of misdemeanor bail jumping, and one misdemeanor count of computer crimes that destroy data. If convicted, she faces more than 40 years in prison and/or up to $145,000 in fines.

The criminal complaint: Embezzling from Sonnenberg Schools

Wenthold embezzling
Heather Wenthold – Credit: Racine County Jail

According to the criminal complaint, Wenthold embezzled more than $100,000 in a little over a year from Sonnenberg Schools in Racine while she was employed there full-time, first in an administrative role in 2019 and then as a principal from June 2022 until her arrest this summer. She was also the executive director of the Cedarburg Art Museum, a position she started in January 2023.

Sonnenberg Schools is a private, 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates K – 12 students with autism spectrum disorder. Wenthold worked out of its Racine location at 2015 Franklin St., on the city’s southeast side.

Wenthold used the school’s credit cards to purchase items for her home such as a hot tub, furnishings, flooring, and vacations to Hawaii and Moab, Utah. According to the criminal complaint, she also bought a computer, desk and other items for her office at the museum.

Additionally, Wenthold is also accused of manipulating payroll records to award herself unauthorized bonuses, reimbursements, and raises.

Tom Felmer, president of the Cedarburg Art Museum Board of Directors, told the Ozaukee County News Graphic he was surprised to learn of the embezzlement charges because of the trust Wenthold built in the community.

“Heather has gained the trust of a lot of people in the community,” he told reporter Christina Luick. “She did a lot of good things for the museum. It was a surprise to hear that.”

Felmer was quick to add that all is well with the museum. An audit was conducted to ensure museum finances were in order, and Wenthold’s access to any museum records was rescinded.

Wenthold will next be in court on Sept. 20 for her preliminary hearing and has been ordered to not have contact with the Sonnenberg Schools.

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