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UPDATE: Oxford Officially Receives Insurance Check in Tax Collector Case

The town is eligible for $100,000 from its insurance carrier; criminal investigation could be wrapped up in four to eight weeks.

The town of Oxford has officially received a check for $100,000 from The Hartford Fire Insurance Co., the total amount it bonded for the fidelity and honesty of former Tax Collector Karen Guillet, whom officials say may not have been that honest. 

Guillet is accused of stealing more than $670,000 from the town over a six-year period. Investigations into her actions are ongoing; she has resigned from the tax collector post she held for 24 consecutive years. 

Background from last week

First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers announced the news at a press conference Thursday. Drayton-Rogers said a criminal investigation into Guillet's actions is ongoing, as is a civil suit; the $100,000 insurance payment is part of the civil suit process. She said the town hopes to recoup all of the money stolen, and believes the news of the $100,000 payment - which will go into the town's general fund - shows that could be possible. 

"This has been and continues to be an intense and time-consuming process with claims yet to be proven against (Guillet)," Drayton-Rogers said of her one-time friend and former co-worker. "While I have stated this matter is a difficult and trying one, I will continue with every effort to diligently pursue futher claims in the civil courts (the civil case is still in the early stages of discovery). ...This is one successful step in a long process which continues and will be followed through to the end of the investigation in the name of our residents and taxpayers."

Town Business Manager Jim Hliva said he and town officials are in constant contact with police detectives who are investigating the case. Drayton-Rogers said the criminal aspect of the case is being handled through the Connecticut State Police Major Crimes Squad, and that town officials have gone out of their way to help in any way they could with that investigation.

"It's their investigation so it's on their schedule," she said of police, "But we will continue to work with them and push them to move it forward in the name of justice for our residents."

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Thursday police expect to wrap up their investigation within the next four to eight weeks.

"There is no length of time for how long a criminal investigation should take," he said. "This one in particular is taking some time because there is a tremendous amount of physical auditing that goes into the case, and that is very time consuming."

The town of Oxford, meanwhile, is taking steps to make sure something similar doesn't happen again. For example, the town now has two full-time people in the tax collector's office, whereas throughout much of Guillet's tenure it had just one. The town is also accepting credit card payments in the tax collector's office to avoid so many cash payments, and Town Clerk Margaret West has applied for funding for surveillance cameras for the town clerk's vault, the town clerk's front desk and the tax collector's office.

But all of the physical fixes cannot take away the emotional suffering the case has caused.

Drayton-Rogers discussed her and the town's collective pain, anger and embarrassment on Thursday.

"I knew her as a friend," she said of Guillet. "There is nothing I can say that can fully express the disappointment for the situation that the town has had to face." 

Drayton-Rogers said she has not heard from Guillet and does not want to speculate on rumors about her whereabouts. Guillet has turned down numerous requests for comment from various news organizations.

Background (The following was published on Oxford Patch in the spring)  

On Jan. 13, 2010, First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers confronted her one time friend and Oxford's longtime Tax Collector Karen Guillet after auditors confirmed fraud had been committed in the tax office.

During a scheduled meeting in the selectmen's office, Drayton-Rogers said she asked Guillet three times about $3,093 that had not been properly deposited at Naugatuck Valley Savings & Loan.

Guillet responded to the first two inquiries by stating, "It's not in the bank...It's not on my desk..." Drayton-Rogers testified at Milford Superior Court Friday.

"And when I asked her a third time, she said, 'I guess I took it,'" Drayton-Rogers said. 

And so began the downfall of a once respected tax collector who had cruised to re-election time and again over the past 24 years.

Drayton-Rogers testified Friday during a probable cause hearing as part of a against Guillet in an attempt to recoup the money town officials claim Guillet stole. Drayton-Rogers said, after Guillet admitted to taking the money, she told the former tax collector she would not return to her office, advised her to obtain legal counsel and took Guillet's work keys before having her escorted out of Town Hall.

Before she left, Guillet said, "I'm glad it's over with," Drayton-Rogers testified.

Guillet was immediately placed on leave and was paid using her accrued sick time. She resigned five months later.

An ad hoc committee appointed by Drayton-Rogers contends that the 'it' to which Guillet referred was a scandal that Finance Director Jim Hliva compared to a Ponzi scheme, through which Guillet frequently stole cash payments and then shifted checks from other deposits to make up for the cash shortages. (Note: Guillet also owned taxes to the town for 2009 but paid them off in April of this year.) 

Since news broke of the alleged scandal, dozens of residents and business owners said they received delinquent tax notices even though they had proof of payment, Hliva testified. All told, those claims amount to $671,768 dating back to 2003, a number that Hliva called a "moving target" as people continue to make claims of delinquent notices they should not have received. 

All of the people who can prove they paid their fair share - either through a receipt from the tax office or a cancelled check - have had their accounts credited, Hliva said.

The three-member ad hoc committee investigated only the largest dollar amounts, which were in the thousands of dollars, Hliva said.

As part of their detailed investigation, committee members took cancelled checks back to NVS&L and asked to see documentation of all money deposited on those days, Hliva said.

The committee then compared the bank's records to those of the tax collector and noticed they did not match. For example, on Aug. 10, 2009, $9,255 in cash was taken into the tax collector's office, according to town records, and just $858 was deposited at the bank, Hliva said. Checks were then taken from different accounts to make up for the cash shortage, he said.

"Kind of like a Ponzi scheme?" Judge Arthur A. Miller asked Friday.

"That is correct," Hliva replied.

Guillet's defense attorney, Dominick J. Thomas, said he believed all along the court would find probable cause.

"Based on the testimony (of Drayton-Rogers), there is no doubt in my mind the court is going to find probable cause to an amount," Thomas said. "The sole question here is the amount."

He said documentation provided in court by Town Counsel Fran Teodosio simply states that for a period of time something was wrong with the computer in the tax office.

Thomas said the defense will now look into "the backup the town has to see whether the batches and the deposits didn't jibe."

"That's all it is, nothing that they have is any proof that she took it," he said. "Now it goes to another level, so at this point, we will be addressing those issues."

Guillet has turned down numerous media requests for comment.

"My client's position is she's not going to discuss the issue," Thomas said. "You heard what she told the first selectman and that's all I'm going to say about that."

Whatever comes out of the civil case, Drayton-Rogers said the public's trust has been compromised, and town officials continue to work hard to gain it back.

"I've received many calls and comments from people who are quite upset," she said. "They are upset that somebody would use their hard-earned tax dollars for personal gain."

Judge agrees the town has probable cause

Milford Superior Court Judge Arthur A. Hiller said there was probable cause to hear the town's civil lawsuit against former Tax Collector Karen Guillet. Hiller agreed Friday to attach treble damages to the town’s claim, meaning Oxford can get triple the amount of the actual damages that officials said they were able to prove was missing after they reviewed a sampling of tax payments between 2007-09 and cross referenced them with bank deposit slips. That amount was $233,322, which, when multiplied by three equals $699,396.

The town has also put a $150,000 lien on her house and property at 2 Douglas Drive in Oxford - Guillet's half of the home she shares with her husband - and officials do not want to pay her pension, which Guillet’s attorney, Dominick J. Thomas, vehemently opposed.

Hiller has not ruled on whether the town can revoke the pension and has asked Thomas and Town Counsel Fran Teodosio to file briefs explaining their positions within two weeks.

Guillet, who was not in court, has already taken about $13,000 out of that pension account, Teodosio said. Thomas said his client is relying on that money to pay her attorney’s fees.

Guillet has not been charged criminally. The criminal investigation is being led by the State Police Western District Major Crimes Squad. State police say there is a lot that goes into these investigations and they could take up to five years.

Guillet served as Oxford's elected tax collector for 24 years before she resigned in June. 

Joseph Calabrese October 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM
I am not skirting the issue, nor 'doing typically political talk'. The meeting I referred to was held January 13th, 10 working days after I started; that is when I learned ANYTHING about the allegations, and was the day I escorted the former tax collector out of the building. You may choose to believe me or not, but that is the truth. With regard to your question, I will be honest- employees do not comment on their employer's actions. This is true in any business, in any industry. Whether you accept this or not, it is inappropriate to do so.
Get Real October 22, 2011 at 12:30 PM
I'm no lawyer, but I do have common sense and so does our town counsel, first selectman and resident state trooper. It does no good to act out of ignorance until facts are gathered. Those of you playing judge and jury obviously do not know how to handle a "claim" or "complaint". Information should to be checked before someone is removed from their job. How many unfounded "charges" are made on this site that if made in actuality would lead to suits against those speaking with no credible knowledge. Thank goodness the people in charge of our town don't have the same mentality as Rachael R and others who speak without facts. Seems that they need to let the Crime Squad do their work and then everyone will know the facts. How political can you get to try and blame Joe Calabrese or the first selectman or anyone else for doing what needed to be done--just because an election is near. Some would blame every Democrat in Oxford for apple pie and motherhood if they thought it would win votes for their candidates. Voters are too smart to fall for those tactics.
Rachael R October 22, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Get Real: I am asking a question that has been, in my opinion,been long overdue. I am not suggesting the resident state trooper, or Mr Calabrese are not doing their jobs.Perhaps you should see what malfeasance in office means, before you take out that broad brush of yours. As to handling a complaint, I agree you, and your supporters know far more about that than do I about that.
Oxford for Truth October 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Wrong Answer Joe. Maybe in an industry you are speaking of. Your employers are the entire Oxford population. We are speaking of elected officials stealing money, not someone taking a candy bar from the lunch room at the factory. I thought you were cut out for the job Mr. Calabrese, now I’m thinking otherwise. David McKane at least has my vote. Joe, maybe you will eventually answer the question and I’ll think differently.
jeb October 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Get Real; for major crime allegations, embezzlement, you immediately put the person on paid leave so they can’t tamper with evidence. The moment evidence was presented to the First Selectman Guillet should have been TOLD to surrender her keys and leave the building under escort. Giving her time to “clean-up” up her office was a gift to a friend to mitigate a political embarrassment.
wow October 22, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Sorry Joe-at the end of the day your paid with Oxford tax dollars!
Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers October 22, 2011 at 03:03 PM
This article is about the insurance bond payment of $100,000 to the town only. I'm sure most residents understand this. Criminal charges are under the direction of the State Police and actions have been guided by legal counsel from day one to protect the town. Speculation at this time is not to the benefit of the Town of Oxford and resdients should be clear on that. Your good intentions are appreciated, but due to the nature of the charges, I cannot comment on this case in this venue. The interests of all taxpayers must be taken into consideration during this process. Therefore, facts, not speculation, must be kept at the heart of this investigation. The town's best interest is of the utmost importance first and foremost. Sincerely, Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers, First Selectman
Joseph Calabrese October 23, 2011 at 12:48 AM
I'm sorry you are disatissfied with my response. In a sense you are correct that the taxpayers of Oxford are my employers, but from a practical standpoint I hope you realize it is not so simple. All employees in Town Hall report to the First Selectman (who represents the citizens), they do not report directly to the individual taxpayers. Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when I can speak freely and openly about this case; right now, I do not want to do or say anything that would jepoardize the investigation and prosecution, including commenting upon how the case progressed. I understand that that may sound like I am dodging the question and cause me to lose your vote, but we are dealing with a criminal investigation and a court trial; it is more important to me that this issue is carried to a successful conclusion for the town & its taxpayers.
Bonnie October 23, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Beth, sorry for the delayed response... The reason I paid cash was because we were in the process of changing bank accts, I didn't have new checks yet and seeing the tax bills come 3 days after they're due I had to pay the taxes. If it weren't for those of us paying cash Karen may never have been caught, it was mainly cash pymnts she was taking home. I never did pay cash before but this one time I had to, I did learn my lesson and never paid cash again even after Karen was gone. You live and learn as they say and sometimes you've gotta learn the hard way. I'm glad they're now taking CC pymnts for the taxes, it's about time Oxford is living in 2011!!!
Hank October 23, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Moving on ...why doesn't Oxford switch to quarterly tax payments? (it would be easier for this taxpaying citizen...me)
Beth October 23, 2011 at 06:14 PM
OXT----the facts are that Joe Calabrese was a new hire and you do not know for a fact what he knew...so why assume he knew anything yet???
Beth October 23, 2011 at 06:18 PM
I cannot understand why she wasn't jailed when she admited to stealing over $3,000 to you...I am not at attorney, but this doesn't make sense that she never served any time in jail??
Beth October 23, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Bonnie I have been an Oxford resident for over 30 yrs...and receive my taxes a month before they are due...for example, the taxes are sent at the end of December and you have until Feb 1 to pay them, close to 30 days or more...In your case you could have paid with a bank check or cashier's check and you would have received a receipt. I just cannot believe so many homeowners would be foolish enough to pay with cash when the taxes that are paid bi-annually for an average ranch are close to $2,000. Who would carry that much cash in this day and age??? This is my humble opinion...
Beth October 23, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Bonnie, a mistake in my response..Your taxes are late on Feb 1. If you post date your letter by Jan 31 you are not considered late...You can also pay with online banking, I did that once, but prefer snail mail since it gives me a few more days to keep the cash in my account.
Beth October 23, 2011 at 06:34 PM
I am sure that you could work out something with the Tax Collector's office Hank. I prefer twice a yr since it's easier to remember...
Hank October 24, 2011 at 12:29 AM
THX Beth
Anne October 24, 2011 at 09:34 PM
I'm sick and tired of being told we owe taxes for vehicles we no longer own. HOW would we have been able to register THREE vehicles if we had delinquent taxes?? Now, since we trusted to town to keep proof that we paid the taxes, most of the time in cash, we're screwed? I don't think so. We do not have our records as they were destroyed in a basement flood...we're trying to locate copies of tax returns, but have no receipts from the tax office. As for the comment that there are always TWO people in the tax office - that's crap. I've been there several times this year and there was only one person working in the office every single time.
Bonnie October 26, 2011 at 11:01 AM
Beth, it's not my home taxes, read my original post, it was my car taxes. I'd never pay my home taxes in cash! The car tax bills were sent out late that year, July 30th and they were due Aug 1st. I too have lived in Oxford for many years and wouldn't ever pay $6000.00 in cash! I'm not that STUPID! I HAD to pay cash for the car taxes because like I originally posted had to get one of our cars registered!!! I didn't intend to offend you, it seems like I did tho!
Bonnie October 26, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Thank you Anne! Ppl are all over me for paying cash because I had to register our cars as well! We SHOULD be able to pay cash in our own town, we don't live in Bridgeport! Trust starts with town hall, doesn't it?
John M. Joy October 26, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Obviously not.
Bonnie October 26, 2011 at 01:51 PM
It's a great thing our kids are learning, you can embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the tax payers and really get away with it. She was doing this for years and she's sitting back at home when she should be in prison and not a federal country club! Martha Stewart spent time in the big house for less money than what was taken here in Oxford! Go figure.....
Ashleigh October 26, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I bought a new car last year and received my tax bill literally a week after it was due. It is just so amazing to receive a notice with -168 hours to pay it. Unfortunately, not all of us have almost 3/4 of a million stolen dollars sitting around to pay for random bills that are sent whenever the sender feels like it.
Bonnie October 26, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Try again, you are so right! I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one that got their tax bill late. It really sucks when the town wants a year of taxes all at once with a couple days notice. I think car taxes should be divided into two payments like the house taxes. It was that way when I was growing up in Stratford, the taxes were divided into two equal payments. It's easier to come up with a few hundred dollars at once to drive on our crappy roads than it is to come up with $800+ at once. Where does our car tax money go anyways? Not to paving our roads, I've had my car fixed twice because my front end has taken on so much damage from my road alone. I'm glad you posted your problem that you had because my bill was late too! I do know we are not alone but I guess some people got theirs on time!!!
Rachael R October 26, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Bonnie: You have nothing to be ashamed about, or make apologies for. You were acting as a responsible citizen. The real issue is what happened at Town Hall and how it was dealt with by the First Selectman.
Bernard October 27, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Why disparage Bridgeport? I'm sure they have controls to make sure that money isn't being stolen. Its here in Oxford that we have poor accounting and procedures that result in people stealing large sums over many years. No need to point the finger when we have our own thieves to deal with.
Bonnie October 27, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Thank you Rachael! Your post started my day with a smile!!!! You have a great day as well!!!!
Ashleigh October 27, 2011 at 02:16 PM
I was hoping that maybe it was a fluke seeing as though I had just purchased the car and it was a partial year bill. So when I sent in the payment, I sent the envelope that showed it was postmarked after the bill was due and sent a note asking them to work on getting them out on time. However, the exact same thing happened earlier this year when I got my full-year tax bill. I am certainly not allowed to send correspondence out at my job a week late, why is the town allowed to send out bills (which carry interest when late) after they are due?
Bonnie October 27, 2011 at 02:31 PM
John, I'm not pointing the finger at Bpt, we own a business in Bridgeport and I know first hand how their tax office works. They dont have employees there, if you need to know how much your taxes are you get online to find out. The check is sent to a PO box, if you need to talk to someone at the tax office, good luck! No one works there so ofcourse there isn't any theft!! My point was just that here in Oxford we should be able to trust our town workers seeing our tax dollars pay them! I moved to this town because of honest nice people and schools, I've lived in a few different towns before Oxford and let me say those towns aren't so nice anymore. It just goes to show how 1 person can give our town a bad name! It's a shame! Sorry if you took my post the wrong way, it wasn't intended to be blaming anyone else!
Beth October 29, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Bonnie no offense taken...I received my property taxes, boat taxes and car taxes the same time..I do agree "tryagain" if your car taxes are high I agree that they should be paid in two payments...Also, yrs ago I owned a home in Bpt and have lived here for over 30 yrs and while I lived and paid taxes in Bpt I never had any problem with the Tax Collector's office...In addition, just because the tax collector is a thief doesn't ruin the reputation of our great town...I do feel should should have been serving time by now and also should have her pension taken away...
brian December 01, 2011 at 02:55 AM
i dont think any of them are innocent rogers is no better then tax collecter to many involved to blame one are towns gone to hell we need anothe ed ozskowski he took car of town an you all know towns not gonna get a dime back

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