Oxford Official Accused Of Stealing Money Lived Lavish Lifestyle

FILEFormer tax collector Karen Guillet was stealing money from Oxford to pay for spa treatments, dog walkers, spending sprees at posh stores — and weekly deliveries of fresh flowers to her home.

The allegations are from the arrest warrant state police used Nov. 30 to charge Guillet with embezzling $243,902 from the town in 2008 and 2009.

Oxford town officials also have a civil lawsuit pending against Guillet. The civil lawsuit, which has a lesser burden of proof than the criminal case, alleges the theft goes back six years and totals more than $670,000.

The arrest warrant states it is very likely more money was stolen than police are now claiming. However, $243,902 is the amount state police believe they can prove was taken based on receipts, deposit slips and bank records, according to the warrant.

The Charges

Guillet is charged with one count of first-degree larceny and six counts of first-degree forgery. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court in Derby Dec. 12.

The warrant accuses Guillet of skimming cash and using fraudulent book-keeping to cover her tracks.

Guillet’s attorney, Dominick Thomas, said he received a copy of the warrant late Monday.

“I’m not going to comment on the warrant,” Thomas said Tuesday. “I haven’t sat down with her and talked about it yet.”

Guillet was the Oxford tax collector for 24 years.

Living Large

The 27-page arrest warrant includes interviews with Guillet’s former colleagues in Oxford Town Hall, who told police her spending habits were widely known.

FILEJudith Melko, a former part-time Town Hall worker in the 1990s, was Guillet’s dog sitter and pseudo-personal assistant.

She allegedly told police Guillet had an army of helpers at her Oxford home, including “a cleaning lady, several gardeners, a second dog walker, a baker and a florist that delivered fresh flowers to Guillet’s home every Friday,” according to the warrant.

“Aside from the hired help around the house, Melko stated Guillet spent unbelievable amounts of money on clothes, beauty treatments, vacations, jewelry, home decor and landscaping around the house,” the warrant states.

Extra Spending Money

In addition to dog sitting and folding laundry, Melko brought Guillet’s personal deposits to the bank. The envelops usually contained between $2,000 and $3,000 in cash, Melko told police. Those deposits were done “nearly every week,” she told police.

Melko was paid $100 per day for her services.

The tax collector’s position paid about $53,000 annually.

Guillet explained her extra money by saying it came from her husband. Guillet also allegedly told several people that she had a trust fund and inheritance from a wealthy aunt.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

As part of the investigation, state police also looked at Guillet’s American Express credit card transactions.

The statements show in 2007 Guillet spent $9,437.35 in nine months at a spa and salon in Southbury.

She spent $2,382.76 during a one-night stay at an exclusive hotel in Keene, N.H.

Other purchases included:

  • $5,812 in three purchases at a clothing store in Westport in March 2007.
  • $3,537 in a single shopping trip at a clothing store in Wesport in July 2009.
  • $1,980 on lodging, jewelry and dining at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in September 2009.

The charges — and payments — on the credit cards ceased when Guillet stopped working at Town Hall in June 2010, according to the warrant.

“Guillet also spent tens of thousands of dollars at high end stores such as Swarovski Crystal, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Williams Sonoma, etc.,” according to state police.

Meanwhile, federal tax returns for Guillet and her husband show their annual income was:

  • $82,876 in 2007
  • $103,740 in 2008
  • $100,752 in 2009

‘Carte Blanche’

Guillet, who was escorted out of Oxford Town Hall and placed on administrative leave in January 2010, resigned her position in June 2010.

Many of her former co-workers were interviewed by state police after the resignation.

Guillet always carried a lot of cash, according to coworker Joyce Eades, an employee in Oxford’s assessor’s office who had been close friends with Guillet.

The tax collector bought other employees clothes, toys for their children and sometimes jewelry, according to coworker Ann Cummings, who works in the finance department.

Guillet would pay for catered lunches at Town Hall on special occasions, according to Town Assessor Eva Lintzner.

But employees also noticed problems, according to the warrant: Tax payments would appear in desk drawers when they should have been deposited; Guillet was accessing the assessor’s records when she wasn’t supposed to have access.

The warrant states the assessment of Guillet’s home suddenly changed, but doesn’t provide details.

Record-keeping in the tax collector’s office was terrible, according to the warrant.

However, Guillet had “carte blanche at Town Hall for years,” Eades allegedly told police.

“Aside from First Selectman (Mary Ann) Drayton-Rogers, if things were ever mentioned to a first selectman they would say ‘okay’ but nothing was ever done,” Eades told police.

Gig’s Up

Sharon Scinto, the town’s assistant tax collector, was a key player in revealing what Guillet was allegedly up to, according to the warrant.

In November 2009, Scinto filed out a slip to deposit about $30,000 into the town’s bank account. The $30,000 included about $3,000 cash.

FILEGuillet took the paperwork and money to the bank.

However, when she returned, Scinto noticed the bank deposit was for about $27,000 — about $3,000 short.

Scinto questioned Guillet, who allegedly took the bank deposit slip and later forged it, according to police.

Scinto’s lawyer, George Temple (who was later elected First Selectmen) contacted Oxford Town Attorney Fran Teodosio about the alleged theft. Scinto brought her concerns to then First Selectwoman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers.

From there, the investigation snowballed — audits took place and the town began a lengthy and pain-staking probe to figure out how the money was stolen — and how much.

Meanwhile, state police conducted its own, two-year investigation, much of it based on the work the town was producing.

In February 2010, Guillet and an attorney met with Drayton-Rogers at Oxford Town Hall.

Guillet allegedly offered to pay back money using her retirement fund. Drayton-Rogers said an agreement was not possible.

“Upon leaving the meeting, Guillet told Drayton-Rogers she was ‘sorry’ and that she had gone to confession and just wanted ‘to go away’ and never be seen again,” according to police.

Unraveling

After months of review, police focused on 100 batches of deposits from 2008 and 2009.

The review found that there should have been $339,421.26 in cash deposited from those 100 batches. Bank records show only $95,519.08 of that cash was actually deposited.

Police said the missing money was hidden from town officials and auditors in an elaborate “lapping” scheme. It involved allegedly taking cash, and covering up the missing cash with other checks.

THE ARREST WARRANT:

Guillet Warrant

Comments

posted by: Caryn Zlamany Rickel on December 7, 2011  4:28pm

” Baby Bernie Madoff “....doing it big
not thinking she would get caught.
This is an amazing story from a quiet little country town ! Hope money can be returned in
some way back to the town & taxpapers as a penalty.

posted by: Mark Tallberg on December 8, 2011  6:35pm

I grew up in Oxford and I remember going to pay my car taxes and being suspicious when I noticed she was driving around in a Jaguar and wearing a fur coat. Meanwhile, she was pulling a Little Lufthansa job all by herself. I mean, didn’t she ever see Goodfellas?

posted by: Thomas Federowicz on December 12, 2011  8:55am

Karen the crook should have been embarrassed when the warrant was served the press should have notified.  She embarrassed the town for years.