The two lunch ladies who allegedly embezzled nearly a half-million dollars from the New Canaan School District were in court on Tuesday, claiming their innocence and blaming the school district for being negligent.
Earlier this month, Stratford resident Joanne Pascarelli, 61, and sister Marie Wilson, 67, of Wilton, were arrested, following a lengthy investigation into an alleged scheme that net the two lunch ladies $478,588 over a five-year span. They have been out on released on $50,000 bail.
Each sister has been charged with larceny, defrauding a public community. On Tuesday, in Norwalk Superior Court, they proclaimed their innocence and stated they lacked the money because they carpooled to court, according to the New York Post. Pascarelli pleaded not guilty, while Wilson declined to enter a plea under their next court date.
“These two individuals don’t have money, and they carpooled together” to court, said Joanne Pascarelli’s lawyer Darnell Crosland said, to reporters. “That’s another evidentiary tell-tale sign.”
According to the report, Crosland said that the missing money was due to the school district’s “negligence” and a poor accounting system.
Schools Superintendent Bryan Luzzi said that the district has been working with auditors, which led to the discovery of the misplaced money.
“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,” he 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.
“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.”
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