CEDARBURG (WITI) -- A former U.S. Air Force supervisor caught stealing military equipment in Oregon has landed a new job in the Town of Cedarburg. And not just any job. He's the town's Director of Public Works. In other words, he was caught stealing government property three years ago and now, he's once again in charge of government property.
How can that happen?
A FOX6 Investigation found that a sweetheart deal with prosecutors in Oregon made it possible.
Six months ago, the Town of Cedarburg hired Adam Monticelli to run its Public Works Department - a job that pays $60,000 a year and is responsible for an annual budget of more than $1 million.
When he applied for the job, Monticelli told the town he had "separated from the United States Air Force in 2010." He just didn’t mention why.
It wasn't until December - four months after Monticelli was hired - that the town learned about his past.
"I thought they should just know that this guy had done this," Kim Johns, a military warrant officer in Oregon familiar with Monticelli's case said.
When Johns heard that Monticelli had moved to Wisconsin and secured a job in local government, he notified town officials by email about his recent history of stealing from his employer. Within minutes, Johns got a stunning response.
"I was dumbfounded by it," Johns said.
Johns told the FOX6 Investigators the same thing. And when FOX6 Investigators started asking questions, it was clear nobody in Cedarburg's town government wanted to talk about it.
“I am not at liberty to comment at this time," Joe Rintelman, one of the town's five elected supervisors said.
“No comment means no comment at this time,“David Salvaggio, another town supervisor said.
“There is an ongoing investigation right now and at this point we can’t comment about it,” Brad Hoeft, town attorney said.
The town wasn't talking. But FOX6's investigation revealed that Adam Monticelli did not leave the Air Force voluntarily. He was “forced to resign” in the midst of a criminal investigation of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 125th Special Tactics Squadron.
According to federal court records, Monticelli’s neighbors saw him bringing home ATVs, motorcycles, GPS systems and flat screen TVs in a U.S. Air Force truck.
“I would see some nice things coming in," said a neighbor who lives near Monticelli's former home in Vancouver. "I just thought maybe it was his friend's or his buddy's.
A joint investigation by the Air Force and the Department of Defense revealed that Monticelli was stealing military equipment and selling it on Craigslist for personal gain.
- Click here for the government's complete Search Warrant Affidavit and background detailing Monticelli's theft of military property.
"This didn't happen 13,14,15 years ago. This happened less than three years ago!" Johns said.
When Johns learned that Monticelli was once again in charge of public money and public property, he fired off an email to members of the Cedarburg board, notifying them that their new Public Works Director had been indicted for theft of military property.
Just four minutes after he sent the message, he got a peculiar reply from Town Supervisor Gary Wickert.
"It's bizarre," Johns said of the reply.
Wickert questioned the tipster’s motivation and slammed his home state of Oregon. The message read, in part:
"Perhaps you can let me [know] your motivations for sending the email, your relationship with Adam, and how this involves you. Oregon is one of the top five most liberal states in the country. By that account I think most Oregon voters know a whole lot more than the average American about theft of U.S. government property – namely taxpayer dollars." --Gary Wickert, Town Supervisor
"I didn't think there was a partisan reason for reporting theft of taxpayer goods," Johns said.
Wickert did not respond to requests for an on camera interview, but in an email to the FOX6 Investigators, he called Johns' whistleblowing tip a “vindictive attempt to ruin the reputation of an American military hero.”
Johns says he was just trying to be a good neighbor. But he does have a history with Monticelli.
In 2009, six members of Monticelli’s unit at the Oregon Air National Guard had to be rescued from the North Pacific when their boat capsized. News reports questioned whether the training mission was really just a joy ride, since members of the crew were wearing T-shirts and shorts, but no had no life-jackets.
Johns says then-Sergeant Monticelli called him personally after the boat had flipped and informed him this his commander wanted to keep the incident "government to government."
It was Johns' company that manufactured the boat. Eventually, a government safety report blamed the boat’s design for the capsizing, and Johns said that killed his business. He believes he was the scapegoat in a military cover-up.
"They were trying to cover their backends for something they shouldn't have been doing with U.S. government property," Johns said.
Despite that history, Johns insists his tip to the town of Cedarburg is nothing personal.
"For me just to alert my neighbors that 'Look, something might be wrong on your block.' I don`t see how that's vindictive to Adam," Johns said.
Reaction in Cedarburg is mixed.
"Here is a new neighbor has come to Cedarburg and if he has paid his debt to society, I think Cedarburg will stand behind him," John Lipscomb, longtime resident of the town said.
"Wow, that is pretty terrible and concerning to know that they hired someone that was convicted in a federal court and stealing especially from the government," Lauren Sepahpenah, another town resident said.
"You should check your facts," said Brad Hoeft, Town Attorney. "He was not convicted."
Technically, that's true. Monticelli was indicted by a federal grand jury for stealing motorcycles from the Air Force. He even pleaded guilty to the charge. But he did so in exchange for a special pre-trial “diversion agreement" with prosecutors.
It allowed him to pay $8,850 in restitution and as long as he accepted responsibility for the thefts, after 18-months, the case would be dismissed. In fact, it was dismissed even earlier than that. The US Attorney in Oregon let him off the hook after just 12 months. His indictment was formally dismissed on Valentine's Day 2012 -- and the sweetheart deal was complete.
When Monticelli applied for the Public Works job last summer, he indicated on his application that he had never been convicted of a crime. And town officials say nothing showed up in a background check.
A week after we started asking questions, the Cedarburg Town Board called a special meeting to discuss Monticelli's recent past, as well as his future with the town. They met behind closed doors for two hours. Then decided to do nothing.
Even after an internal investigation and a private meeting, the town still refused to talk about Monticelli's hiring on camera. Two days after the meeting, the town issued a two-page statement.
In its statement, the town calls Monticelli a "valuable employee" and praises his "exemplary" military service. It also assures residents there are "adequate safeguards” in place to protect town property. In other words, the town decided to leave an admitted thief in charge.
"What the town of Cedarburg and their citizens do is up to them. Now they know," Johns said.
In its statement explaining the decision to retain Monticelli, the town writes that it is "most troubled" by his use of a fictitious name to forge titles which were then transferred into his own name.
But the board says it appears "extenuating circumstances" existed surrounding superior officers who endorsed the personal use of government property.
Monticelli's lawyer told the U.S. attorney in Oregon that supervisors had encouraged Monticelli to take home the motorcycles and possibly even gave him the green light to sell them with "a wink and a nod."
However, no one else in the Oregon Air National Guard has ever been charged with a crime related to the thefts.
Monticelli declined repeated requests for an interview - by email and by telephone.
FOX6 had hoped to speak with him at the town's last regular board meeting in January.
Monticelli was at the town hall meeting when a camera crew arrived. He never took his seat, however, in the meeting hall. His chair remained empty the entire meeting. It appeared he had seen the camera and decided to go home.