Just before sending former Oxford Tax Collector Karen Guillet to prison for four years Wednesday, Judge Richard Arnold held a thick stack of documents in his hand called the pre-sentence investigation.
It was a court-prepared report meant to give the judge a glimpse into Guillet’s background, paint a picture of who she is and, possibly, provide a clue as to why she stole $243,902.18 from Oxford taxpayers.
Did she have a drug addiction? A mental defect? A gambling problem?
After reading the document four times prior to walking into court, Arnold reached a conclusion:
“I still don’t know who you are,” he told Guillet. “I can’t figure out the motivation for this, other than what’s been stated here — greed.”
Some of the judge’s remarks to Guillet are in the video below. The article continues below.
Judge Arnold sentenced Guillet Wednesday to serve four years in prison after a hearing at Superior Court in Milford that lasted nearly an hour.
In addition to the prison time, Guillet will be on probation for five years after getting out of jail, during which Judge Arnold ordered her to pay a total of $243,902.18 to the town.
The video below shows the judge handing down the sentence.
Guillet’s sentencing Wednesday marked the culmination of a public corruption scandal that was first alleged in December 2009, when Oxford Town Hall officials began to probe the tax collector’s office.
According to a state police arrest warrant, Guillet was stealing money and cooking the books in Oxford to pay for spa treatments, dog walkers, spending sprees at posh stores — and weekly deliveries of fresh flowers to her home.
She dropped thousands in stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Williams Sonoma. Her spending habits were widely known among her co-workers in Oxford Town Hall. Guillet attributed her wealth to a trust fund or her husband’s construction company.
Her lapping scheme was finally unraveled when Sharon Scinto, then an assistant tax clerk, noticed discrepancies with cash receipts and began asking questions.
Guillet was arrested in late 2011 after a nearly two-year probe by Oxford officials and state police.
She was initially charged with first-degree larceny and six counts of first-degree forgery after state police investigators said she stole $243,000 from taxpayers. All seven charges are felonies.
Oxford officials believe the actual amount stolen is much higher, and have a civil lawsuit pending against Guillet.
Guillet gave a three-minute statement in court Wednesday. It was the first time she had spoken in public since she was put on administrative leave by former First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers in 2010.
Guillet did not ask for mercy nor forgiveness. She wasn’t worth it, she said.
Guillet’s full statement is posted in the video at the top of this article.
“I brought shame on myself, I damaged my character beyond redemption. I have no integrity left,” Guillet said during remarks. “To say that I’m sorry is not a word that adequately describes how I feel. I live with regret and remorse, and it’s not easy for me at all.”
“I will not ask the town for forgiveness as I am not worthy of that gift, because I am responsible for the crime that I committed,” Guillet went on. “I ask no forgiveness. I am deserving of the town’s scorn, anger and bitterness. All I ask at this time is that the town would be able to find some peace knowing that I will be punished, and punished severely, for the crime I committed against them.”
Guillet spoke slowly and deliberately during her statement, never losing her composure.
Her assessment of herself was brutal. Yet Guillet, a former Sunday school teacher, still didn’t answer that basic question — why did she do it?
“Ms. Guillet, you have brought shame upon everybody you have touched,” Judge Arnold said before handing down the four-year term on a single count of first-degree larceny to which Guillet pleaded guilty in July.
After her sentencing, she was led into the court’s lockup by judicial marshals, which can be seen in the video below:
During the hearing, State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor, Oxford First Selectman George Temple, and Don Pelletier, a resident who obtained 531 signatures on a “no leniency” petition, all asked Judge Arnold to give Guillet a prison sentence at the high end of a plea agreement that called for up to five years behind bars.
Guillet’s lawyer, Dominick Thomas, asked Judge Arnold to give his client an 18-month prison term.
Oxford Is The Victim
Temple outlined the long-lasting impact of Guillet’s crime against Oxford.
“I take no pleasure in coming before the court this afternoon,” Temple said in describing the “crisis of trust” caused by Guillet.
He noted the more than a dozen town officials, employees, and citizens who were in the courtroom for Wednesday’s sentencing.
“Karen was highly respected and generous to all her friends,” Temple told Arnold. “Her excesses were legendary. She always had new Jaguars, shopped at exclusive boutiques, went on lavish trips, and even had a thousand-dollar pair of shoes.
“Her cover story was that she was the recipient of a trust fund,” Temple went on. “In light of these excesses, it is not hard to imagine that the mood of the town is not leaning toward mercy” or sympathy toward Guillet’s “compulsive need to be noticed or loved.”
Guillet’s crimes left the town’s tax collection system in disarray, with hundreds of residents on a tax delinquent list when, in fact, they had paid their taxes.
The chaos in the town’s tax office led Oxford officials to publicize a list of accounts that showed up in the town’s records as delinquent on their taxes.
“Several angry taxpayers came in and showed convincing proof that they had paid their taxes,” Temple said. “And yet, they’re on the delinquent list.”
“We had over $1.36 million worth of angry taxpayers falsely accused of Karen Guillet as being deadbeats,” Temple said, showing Judge Arnold a banker’s box full of documents. “For that I apologize and regret their inconvenience and embarrassment.”
“The defendant should have a long prison term,” Temple said. The hardship and grief she caused the town can never be taken back. The restitution she made is a small fraction of the amount that she stole. Her motivation was to feed her conceit and ego.”
Don Pelletier, an Oxford resident who collected 531 signatures on a “no leniency petition” urging Guillet serve the full five years she was exposed to under the plea agreement.
“Five years is leniency,” Pelletier said. “I wish in my heart that this case had gone to trial. Then she would have got what she deserved: 20 years.”
She Betrayed The Public Trust
State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor began Wednesday’s hearing by noting how, in a probation report prepared for her sentencing, people who knew Guillet said they had been “surprised,” “shocked,” or “dumbfounded” by her theft — and had no idea what compelled Guillet to steal.
“Usually you have so much going in the other direction,” Lawlor said, like people who take money to pay for drugs, or who gamble or suffer from mental health issues.
“We’re left with a person who in the course of the years . . . basically used her position of authority within the town to systematically raid the town and the taxpayers of the town of a significant, significant amount of money,” Lawlor said.
“And for what? There is no excuse here,” Lawlor said, other than greed.
Guillet was paid a $54,000 salary by taxpayers, he said, while with “just her credit card bills alone (she) was living at a rate double that.”
He said she betrayed the town’s trust on an “almost daily basis,” and that her behavior should merit a “substantial” period of incarceration in the range of four to four-and-a-half years.
“She is obviously a public servant. She was a public servant. I think that with that there are certain expectations and you need to be held accountable when you violate that public trust,” Lawlor said, asking Judge Arnold to impose a sentence that would send a message that “there is a heavy price to be paid” for those engaging in such conduct.
‘A Total Aberration’
Guillet’s lawyer, Dominick Thomas, said he has known her since the early 80s — and even coached her children in sports — and that Guillet’s conduct “was a total aberration.”
“Nobody’s going to stand here and tell you there’s any excuse for it,” Thomas said. “She’s pleaded guilty, she’s prepared to accept the sentence.”
Thomas tried to persuade Judge Arnold to hand down a lighter sentence based on Guillet’s efforts to make restitution in the case, as well as favorable accounts in letters her friends and family wrote to the court, and suggested she be ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service instead.
Judge Arnold, after listening to Guillet’s remarks, noted that the money Guillet took should have been spent on other things to benefit Oxford residents.
The video below shows the judge talking about restitution Guillet must pay:
“It’s money that could have been spent on roads, police, fire, schools, school athletics, after school programs, senior services,” he said. “The money that’s lost is lost. The money that I can recover through my office as a judge, it’s important to me what I can recover for all of you.”
Judge Arnold said that, in reviewing the information supplied by Thomas, there was $25,074.25 of “sure money” with what seemed like a reliable promise of $16,538 more, for a total of $41,612.25 in restitution that would go to the town soon.
The judge said he couldn’t endorse a proposal by Thomas for the town to drop a lien on a house she co-owns with her husband, who has filed for divorce, so she could sell her interest in it and use that as restitution.
He said he would simply order restitution for the $243,902 “no matter when it comes or in what form it comes.”
In addition to the restitution order, Judge Arnold ordered Guillet to undergo mental health evaluation and treatment, as well as substance abuse evaluation and treatment if deemed necessary — “some of these are because we still can’t figure this out,” he noted.
He also barred her from employment in any business dealing with finances and ordered her to perform 250 hours of community service.
Guillet’s $21,776 per year pension was revoked in full in a separate court proceeding initiated by the State Attorney General’s Office.