What draws a person to a career in social work?
It's probably not the money — a U.S. News and World Report survey pegs the median salary of child and family caseworkers at a little more than $42K — so it must be a vocational call to serve.
In the case of Amy Mueller, a now former Illinois Department of Human Services caseworker, it could be both. She served herself tens of thousands of dollars in personal windfall over a three-year period from 2012 to 2015 by betraying the trust of her clients.
The Highland resident on Monday pleaded guilty to creating fake benefit accounts using the personal information from the people she was supposed to be helping. Mueller then withdrew cash from those accounts to serve her own pressing need for pedicures, fake tans, meals at fine restaurants and even a vacation here and there.
In all, the Illinois Attorney General office says, Mueller made off with about $159,222.
The only thing remotely as shameful as her crime is the punishment.
In exchange for a guilty plea in a Madison County criminal court, Mueller was ordered to pay just $30,000 in restitution, a paltry 19 percent of what she stole (good thing the State of Illinois doesn't really need the money).
And her four-year sentence is way below the maximum she could have received for even the first of the 12 felony counts levied against her -- the Class X offense of theft exceeding $100,000 is punishable for up to 30 years.
With the additional counts of wire fraud, identity theft and official misconduct, Mueller would have faced far steeper penalties had she attempted to fight charges.
And she would have deserved it.