Former Milwaukee County employee, tow operator charged in bribery scheme

A former Milwaukee County employee who admitted falsely releasing more than 250 vehicle liens for unpaid child support has been charged in a corruption scheme.

Daneen Marie Pope, 47, of Milwaukee, was arrested at the courthouse in September. The investigation of her scheme was first reported by the Journal Sentinel in December. She is now charged with misconduct in public office, a felony.

Michael Morgan, 37, owner of Supreme Towing & Salvage, also was charged in the plot. He faces counts of racketeering, conspiracy to bribe a public official, identity theft, conspiracy to commit theft, money laundering and forgery.

According to the criminal complaint:

Starting in 2019, Morgan would pay Pope, whom she came to call “Boss,” to release liens of vehicles he wanted to sell for scrap.

Morgan would text Pope the VIN of a vehicle he wanted to dispose of, and she would release the lien. She would then send him a screenshot from the private computer system used to track child support. The system also included personal identifying information about both custodial and noncustodial parents.

She would get $50 for releasing liens held by Child Support Services and $25 for those held by financial institutions, and often created false documents to support the latter. She faked 85 satisfactions of liens for institutions, according to the complaint.

“Pope and Morgan developed a routine where Morgan would park under the bridge on North 9th Street near the Milwaukee County Child Support Office and Pope would hand deliver the fraudulent paperwork to him, in exchange for cash,” the complaint states.

Over the course of the scheme, with Morgan and others, Pope made over $15,000. None of the money went to the custodial parents entitled to child support.

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Prosecutors estimate Morgan made between $37,000 and $43,000 scrapping the 144 vehicles for which Pope fraudulently released the liens.

The complaint says Pope released some liens free of charge — for the father of her child and for her son. Child Support Services policy prohibits an employee acting on a relative’s case.

A search warrant indicated Pope told detectives she took the bribes because she didn’t think her county salary was sufficient. She earned just under $40,000 in 2020.

The crime was discovered after a July audit of the child support division showed Pope had released far more vehicle liens in 2020 and 2021 than the two workers assigned to that task full time.

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Pope’s job was to monitor caseloads for appropriate enforcement actions, interview participants, lawyers and others, evaluate reports, update data and sometimes prepare legal documents. She was also authorized to negotiate lien payments with parents who owed money and to release liens in instances where payments were actually made toward debts.

Pope held the job since 2011, except for a few months when she worked for Rock County child support services in 2017. She was fired the day of her arrest.

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.

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