No embezzlement charges filed against Joe Luginbill

Local News

EAU CLAIRE Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – No charges will be filed against an Eau Claire native known in the community for his work with children. It’s been 22 months since we last heard from Joe Luginbill, when he announced he would be dissolving ‘Luginbills’ Children’s Foundation’ and seeking treatment for mental illness.

“Joe had a very expansive reach in the community. Kind of helping other organizations or supposedly helping other organizations to move their goals forward and to find out that in a way he was taking advantage of that situation”

After months of investigation, the Eau Claire police department says it found Joe Luginbill used charitable donations made to his children’s foundation for personal expenses between 2016 and 2020.

The 52-page reports of embezzlement investigated by Eau Claire investigator Olivia Erl conclude with this quote, “When combining all the information obtained through the course of this investigation, it becomes quite clear that Luginbill used substantial amounts of charitable funds for his personal use.”

Substantial amounts, coming out to approximately 22-thousand dollars, according to the investigator. The money appeared to be spent on things such as maintenance on his vehicle and a trip to Washington DC among other things.

In late October 2020, Investigator Erl supplied the district attorney’s office with her findings. Last month, the DA’s office decided not to prosecute the case.

District Attorney Peter Rindal and Deputy District Attorney Angela Beranek in a statement explain their reasoning for this decision. Citing insufficient evidence. The DA’s office writes: “Based on the totality of evidence submitted for review and the complex nature of the law surrounding charitable organizations, the district attorney’s office determined it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt—the required burden of proof the state must meet for conviction—that Mr. Luginbill committed a crime.”

Staff members with the nonprofit Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ center say they were impacted by Luginbill’s financial decisions.

VP of Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Center, Daniel Bennett-Hardy, said, “Whether or not what Mr. Luginbill did was criminal, there is definitely a track of mismanagement.”

Bennett-Hardy says the center became displaced from the building it was leasing because of Luginbill’s financial mismanagement. However, Bennet-Hardy says the center’s losses from being involved with Luginbill were minimal compared to others.

“I think a lot of the other organizations and individuals who really had their lives turned upside down because of this are probably trying to find what to do next and we hope everybody can move forward, and that Mr. Luginbill is held responsible because of his actions.”, said Bennett-Hardy.

Bennett-Hardy says being involved in a nonprofit himself, taking advantage of donations as Luginbill reportedly did, is something that would never cross his mind.

“I can’t imagine that as a nonprofit you use donations to further the effect of what your organization can do.” Bennett-Hardy goes on to say, “It makes you really wonder what kinds of things were happening that we may or may not know about”

The DA’s office notes if additional evidence comes to light and is referred to the district attorney’s office, the charging decision could be reconsidered. ECPD also says it would always consider new information should it become available. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Community Calendar