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Former aide to Wisconsin governor sentenced in embezzlement case

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A former aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday for embezzling tens of thousands of dollar from a fund for families of U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The aide, Kevin Kavanaugh, was also sentenced to two years of extended supervision and ordered to pay back the $51,200 he embezzled from Operation Freedom, a military appreciation event held each year at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Kavanaugh, who was convicted by a jury in October, worked for Walker when the first-term Republican governor served as Milwaukee County executive.

Kavanaugh, 62, was the treasurer of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a charity involved in Operation Freedom, from 2006 to 2009. Walker appointed him to serve on the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission during Walker's term as county executive.

Walker originally ran the Operation Freedom event through his county office. It was later turned over to the Purple Heart organization after Walker received legal advice the event should be handled by a charitable organization.

Tim Russell, another Walker aide, was implicated in the same investigation and pleaded guilty in November to diverting more than $21,000 to his personal bank account.

The investigation is part of a wider probe into Walker's county executive office.

Kelly Rindfleisch, who was Walker's deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in public office in October and was sentenced to six months in jail after admitting to campaigning for Republicans while working in Walker's office for Milwaukee County.

Darlene Wink, a former executive assistant in the county executive's office, pleaded guilty to charges of political solicitation by public officials this year. She is expected to be sentenced in January.

Walker, who was county executive from 2002 to 2010, has not been charged in the investigation.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)

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