GREEN BAY - The manager of an all-male homeless shelter has been charged with five counts of welfare fraud.
The Brown County Sheriff's Office says Manuelus Reacco managed the Transformation House on Jefferson Street in Green Bay. The shelter opened in January 2012.
Reacco allegedly used homeless residents' QUEST Cards and PINs to purchase food, allegedly for the house. QUEST Cards are issued through the Wisconsin FoodShare program.
"When we opened we had no funds, but we had a big heart," said Pastor Manuelus Reacco.
The men's homeless shelter, the Transformation House, has been open for less than a year.
Reacco says he didn't know he was committing fraud. When FOX 11 stopped by Tuesday, he said he didn't even know he was charged with two misdemeanors and three felonies for misusing FoodShare QUEST Cards.
"We encouraged them: we're helping y'all, why don't you help us to feed you? They would take and say we want to use our FoodShare," he said.
The Brown County Sheriff's Office says its welfare investigation division looked into Reacco after a former resident complained.
"He would take half of whatever's on the account for the purpose of supplanting food items and other things at the shelter for the use of everybody and not the individual," said Captain David Kontrath.
FOX 11 spoke to one of the residents Tuesday. He didn't want to go on camera. He said that he voluntarily gave his FoodShare card. He didn't think it was wrong, and he wanted to pitch in to help with costs.
A criminal complaint shows the purchase of larger quantity items, like a 25-pound bag of sugar, tipped off investigators to possible fraud. Reacco says Brown County Human Services questioned him about the QUEST Card use months ago.
"When I found out this issue, I stopped immediately," said Reacco.
Law enforcement says Reacco knew the rules.
"He himself is on the program, on the FoodShare program. Part of the process is when you begin to receive benefits you get an orientation of what you can and cannot do. Using another person's card is obviously prohibited practice that's statutory and obviously, Mr. Reacco should have known that," said Reacco.
Despite the charges filed, the shelter continues to operate and serve several residents living on site.
If convicted, Reacco faces jail time and several thousand dollars in fines.
Reacco is scheduled to make his first court appearance Dec. 4.
Gov. Scott Walker is calling for more trees to be harvested from a national forest in far northern Wisconsin as part of the state's efforts to spur growth in its struggling timber industry.
A man convicted in an arson that was made to look like a hate crime has been sentenced to 16 months in prison.
It could be closing time for many small cinemas across the country.
When is it work? When is it abuse? The line can sometimes be blurry, when it comes to dairy farmers dealing with cows. These questions have recently been raised, after video surfaced, showing animal abuse at a local dairy farm.
When your doctor prescribes medication, you assume it's safe, but some people don't realize how dangerous it can be, if it's abused. A group of local high school students helped make a movie to shine a light on the problem.
We're learning more about what it will take to find out what caused a major fire in downtown Ripon Wednesday.