MILWAUKEE (AP) — One of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s close associates pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing thousands of dollars from a nonprofit group he ran.

Tim Russell, 49, was charged in in January with two felony counts of theft and a misdemeanor count of theft. He would have faced up to 16 years and nine months behind bars and $45,000 in fines if convicted on all three charges.

He pleaded guilty to one felony count during a 12-minute hearing in front of Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher. Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf in exchange dismissed the other two counts and promised to recommend Russell serve 30 months in prison and 30 months on extended supervision and pay back the money he stole.

Hansher set sentencing for Jan. 22. Russell remains free on bail until then.

Russell’s attorney, Parker Mathers, told reporters after the proceeding Russell is looking forward to bringing the case to an end. He ducked into a stairwell without taking any questions.

Russell worked on and off in Walker’s administration while Walker served as Milwaukee County Executive from 2002 to 2010. Walker appointed him in 1999 to lead the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, a nonprofit group that organizes outings for veterans to the Milwaukee County Zoo.

According to a criminal complaint, Russell used his position to steal at least $21,000 from the group in 2009 and 2010 and spent the money on vacations to Hawaii and the Caribbean, and on a trip to Atlanta to meet GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

Russell also controlled county board candidate Chris Kujawa’s campaign account in 2007, the complaint said. After Kujawa lost his bid for office, Russell transferred $3,000 from the campaign fund into Russell’s personal account. He used money from the Heritage Guard Preservation Society to refill the campaign account two years later, the complaint said.

Russell also controlled county board candidate Larry Spicer’s campaign account in 2010. Months after Spicer lost in a primary, Russell withdrew $550 from the campaign account with Spicer’s knowledge, the complaint said.

The charges stem from a secret investigation prosecutors launched in May 2010 into Walker’s county office.

Three former aides and a Walker campaign donor have already been convicted. Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner, has been charged with child enticement after investigators working on Russell’s case said they turned up evidence Pierick tried to coax a 17-year-old boy into his van for sex.

Walker himself hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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