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Sisters, Ex-Employees Stole Nearly Half Million From New Canaan School District, Police Say

Joanne Pascarelli of Stratford Joanne Pascarelli of Stratford
Joanne Pascarelli of Stratford Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department
Marie Wilson of Wilton Marie Wilson of Wilton
Marie Wilson of Wilton Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department

Two sisters who are former employees in the New Canaan School District have surrendered to police after being accused of embezzling nearly half a million dollars.

The charges come after the New Canaan Board of Education filed a complaint on Dec. 21 with the New Canaan Police Investigative Section that financial discrepancies were discovered with the handling of cash at Saxe Middle School cafeteria and New Canaan High School cafeteria.

Detectives from the New Canaan Police Department Investigation section then started a lengthy and involved investigation into the complaints reported at both schools.

Investigators monitored both cafeteria operations and interviewed multiple cafeteria workers over the course of several months, New Canaan Police said.

The investigation involved:

  • Conducting approximately 20 interviews;
  • Examining financial records and other evidence;
  • Consulting with the Stamford State Attorney;
  • Applying for two arrest warrants.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigation determined that there were two suspects responsible for the thefts.

They are Stratford resident Joanne Pascarelli (formerly employed at Saxe Middle School cafeteria), and her sister Marie Wilson (previously employed at New Canaan High School cafeteria), who resides in Wilton.

For the five-year period of 2012-2017, approximately $478,588 in cash was misappropriated, police said.

While the theft of funds may have occurred before 2012, the investigation did not focus on these years (before 2012) due to direction by the state’s attorney’s office because of statutes of limitation.

The arrest warrants were reviewed by a State’s Attorney and a Superior Court Judge, whom found probable cause and signed both arrest warrants. 

Both women were charged with first-degree larceny, defrauding a public community.

Marie Wilson, 67, surrendered herself to New Canaan Police on Saturday, Aug. 11. 

Wilson was released on $50,000 bond with a court date of Aug. 21.

Pascarelli, 61, surrendered herself to police on Sunday, Aug. 12. 

She was released on $50,000 bond with a court date of Aug. 24.

"For the past few years, the school district has been working with its external auditors to develop and implement enhanced financial procedures and controls in various departments," New Canaan Public Schools Superintendent Bryan D. Luizzi said in a statement. "As these enhanced procedures were implemented in the food services department, the district identified irregularities related to the handling of cash at the Saxe Middle School Cafeteria and the New Canaan High School Cafeteria. 

"These irregularities were promptly reviewed and reported to the New Canaan Police Department."

Luizzi added that "the alleged crimes involve a specific fund, the cafeteria fund, which is separate and apart from the district’s operating budget."

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