Iowa woman avoids prison after pleading guilty to stealing taxpayer dollars

Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 8:53 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2022 at 8:54 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - According to a report from the State Auditor’s Office in June 2021, a former state employee used her husband’s key fob to change his timesheet to collect more than $50,000 in overpayments.

Renae Rapp was charged according to court records with first-degree theft and ongoing criminal conduct - unlawful activity. More than a year later, she was sentenced after pleading guilty to get a charge dismissed, pay back more than $50,000, and serve two years of probation. In a different case, court documents show an elementary school secretary was ordered to serve three years of probation after prosecutors said she misused more than $30,000 from a school and district’s Parent Teacher Organization.

State Auditor Rob Sand (D) said he is frustrated when public employees steal state funds and don’t go to prison. He believes a punishment like time in prison would give state employees less incentive to steal.

“I’m more and more tired of seeing it happen,” Sand said. “And until we change these types of situations, we can expect it’s going to keep happening with the same frequency.”

After an i9 Investigation in 2019 showed people investigated in audits weren’t charged, Sand introduced a bill, which he said would require mandatory time in prison for anybody convicted of stealing taxpayer dollars or tax credits worth more than $1,500. The Auditor’s Office said the bill would provide exceptions for judges to ignore the requirement in extreme circumstances.

After changing the amount to more than $10,000, the bill unanimously passed a House subcommittee in 2020. But, lawmakers never voted on the bill. Sand filed a similar version of the bill for the 2021 Legislative Session, which also didn’t pass the legislature.

Rep. Molly Donahue (D-Cedar Rapids), who was on the subcommittee passing the bill, said she believed the legislation didn’t pass because other bills overshadowed the issue in a legislative session shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were looking at our priorities and that wasn’t our number one issue as well,” she said.

Although the bill unanimously passed a subcommittee featuring two Republicans and one Democrat, the legislation also has its critics like Eric Tindal from the Iowa Association for Justice. Tindal said a mandatory prison sentence would create additional expenses for Iowa like incarceration and the trial. He also said it makes it more difficult for the state to get the money back through court procedures.