Accused Wisconsin man used money for needy veterans, attorney says
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE — Kevin Kavanaugh used money collected for veterans groups that prosecutors claim he stole to make cash donations to homeless and other needy veterans, an attorney for Kavanaugh said Friday.
The lawyer, Christopher Hartley, disputed prosecution claims that Kavanaugh took for himself some $42,000 while serving as financial officer for the Cudahy chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. A criminal complaint against Kavanaugh says he siphoned the money donated through Operation Freedom, an annual event at the zoo hosted by then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, as well as other donations to the Purple Heart.
"Mr. Kavanaugh has said all along ... he distributed money to veterans," rather than keep it for himself, Hartley said following a pretrial hearing before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael Goulee. Kavanaugh's trial was set for Oct. 8 and is expected to last a week or more.
Kavanaugh, who lives in Cudahy, told an investigator "he disbursed the (Purple Heart) funds in the form of cash to keep the recipients' identities confidential," according to a criminal complaint in the case. The complaint says Kavanaugh was heavily in debt and stole the Purple Heart money.
Kavanaugh, 62, faces up to 34 years in prison and $65,000 in fines if convicted on five felonies. The charges, issued in January, grew from a secret John Doe investigation that's focused on former aides and associates of Walker while he was county executive.
Timothy Russell, a former Walker staffer, also faces felony charges of embezzling more than $20,000 in Operation Freedom funds.