Local florists plead guilty

Seth Jovaag

Darren Ulatowski

Two Fitchburg men associated with the former House of Flowers in Verona have pleaded guilty to charges of stealing from a Town of Verona event planning company.

Steve Schmidt, 56, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last Tuesday to one count of money laundering, according to a news release from John W. Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Darren Ulatowski, 47, the former owner of House of Flowers, pleaded guilty to mail fraud Feb. 4, the release said.
Sentencing for both men is scheduled for May 17 by U.S. District Judge William Conley. Both men face up to 20 years in prison.

The men were arrested in December 2011 on 22 counts of embezzlement and fraud after a four-year federal investigation. Both were accused of embezzling money between 2003 and 2007 from Town of Verona-based It’s Your Party, where Schmidt had worked for a decade before he was fired in September 2007. The funds were allegedly used to keep House of Flowers operating.

House of Flowers closed last March after Ulatowski declared bankruptcy.

“These guilty pleas are the rightful acceptance of responsibility by both Schmidt and Ulatowski for their role in victimizing an unsuspecting business which invested genuine trust in both of them,” Kelly Jackson, leader of the IRS criminal investigation office which led the investigation, said in the news release.

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