$500K Lunch Ladies Embezzlement Case Sparks Questions In New Canaan, National Coverage

The two sisters who embezzled nearly a half-million dollars from the New Canaan School District while working as lunch ladies has garnered national attention, and led to countless questions from the community about their elaborate scheme and how it was able to continue for years.

Marie Wilson
Marie Wilson Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department
Joanne Pascarelli
Joanne Pascarelli Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department

New Canaan Police detectives launched their lengthy investigation - which included more than 20 interviews - on Dec. 21 when the Board of Education filed a complaint about financial inadequacies Saxe Middle School and the New Canaan High School cafeterias. Earlier this month, Stratford resident Joanne Pascarelli and sister Marie Wilson, of Wilton, were arrested, following the investigation.

During their five year scheme, which began in 2012, Wilson, 67, and Pascarelli, 61, allegedly stole an estimated $478,588. Each sister was charged with larceny, defrauding a public community.

“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,” Schools Superintendent Bryan Luzzi 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.”

The money has since been reimbursed by the district’s insurance company. 

The thefts may have been taking place for up to 15 years, according to reports.

Jo-Ann Keating, the director of finance and operations for the New Canaan School District said that in response, the district will be pulling reports and checking timestamps as the investigation into the fraud continues. However, questions remain on all sides.

According to Time Magazine, Wilson’s lawyer, Mark Sherman, has denied the allegations and she will reportedly plead not guilty.

“There is so much more to this story," he told Time. "Marie is innocent and did not personally divert a single nickel of town money for personal gain. She is not going to be scapegoated for this missing money.”

For an earlier Daily Voice report on the case, click here.

to follow Daily Voice New Canaan and receive free news updates.