Former Tax Collector Karen Guillet has been arrested by state police on one count of first-degree larceny and six counts of first-degree forgery charges.
Guillet, a Democrat who resigned in June 2010, served in the elected position for 24 years. She has been under investigation since December 2009 after town officials had reason to believe she stole from the tax collector's office. Guillet admitted to taking about $3,000 and further investigation revealed she took at least $670,000 from the town over a six-year span, town officials have said in court.
The town has filed a civil suit against Guillet in which Oxford seeks monetary compensation - - and people have been anxiously awaiting criminal charges against Guillet.
A news release from the Connecticut State Police states that Guillet, 62, of 2 Douglas Drive in Oxford, turned herself in to the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad Detectives at State Police Troop A in Southbury.
"State Police received a complaint and Guillet became the subject of a two-year investigation into the larceny complaint believed to be in excess of a quarter of a million dollars from the Town of Oxford’s Tax Collector’s Office," the release states. "It is also alleged that Guillet was fabricating bank deposit slips and facilitating a complex check lapping scheme for many years."
The release states that police initiated an extensive criminal investigation into the allegations. A forensic examination of the town records was conducted and State Police Detectives conducted numerous interviews and gathered physical evidence, according to the release.
State Police detectives provided all investigative information and evidence in an arrest warrant application that was submitted to Superior Court, according to the release. An arrest warrant was issued by the court for Guillet's arrest, police stated.
Guillet was released on a $100,000 cash only bond. She will be arraigned at Derby Superior Court on Dec. 12.
Guillet's attorney has declined to comment to the media.
We will bring you more on this breaking story. Read more about the Guillet case from a previous Patch article posted below.
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.