Don Pelletier considers himself a “country boy” who wants to live a quiet existence on his one-acre of property in Oxford.
But Pelletier, 62, says he also stands up for what he believes in, and thus, this one time, has thrust himself into the local spotlight. He’s the guy you see standing at the recycling center and other gathering places with a clipboard in hand urging you to sign a petition; it asks a superior court judge to give embezzling former tax collector Karen Guillet the maximum prison sentence under the terms of a plea agreement she accepted.
“I didn’t do this for publicity; I did it because I stand up for what is right,” he said.
Pelletier has collected about 500 signatures and hopes to get to 1,000 by Oct. 18. He will send the petition to Milford Superior Court Judge Richard Arnold in hopes that he takes the public’s sentiment into consider before sentencing Guillet on Oct. 29.
Guillet, 62, has pleaded guilty to charges that she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the town through a scheme while she served in her role as the elected tax collector, a position she held in Oxford for 24 years.
To avoid a trial, she has accepted a plea deal that calls for her to serve 12 years in prison with a possible suspended sentence after five years served. And she is being asked to pay restitution to the town in the amount of $242,903, the total amount state police have accused her of stealing. However, the state police investigation only goes back so far because police were able to prove she stole enough to charge her to the full extent of the law. Many people believe she stole much more; town officials conducted their own investigation and discovered she stole more than $670,000 over just the last five years of her tenure.
In court on Oct. 29, Guillet’s attorney, Dominick Thomas, has the right to argue for a reduce sentence. That doesn’t sit well with Pelletier, a longtime judicial marshal who retired because of a medical issue.
He says that he received notification this past year that he owed taxes from 1994, taxes that he knows he paid. He had to prove that he paid those taxes in full. He eventually had his name removed from the delinquent tax rolls because he had taken out a building permit for a shed at one point; he would not have been able to receive a permit if he owed taxes.
“The money they said I owed had to be well over $1,000,” Pelletier said. “It was taken by somebody. I can’t prove (Guillet) took it, but it sure seems that way. And if that was missing from 1994, how much is really missing?”
In his career, Pelletier said he’d seen criminals give “every excuse in the book” at sentencing.
“All of a sudden they have a sick grandmother, or someone else they had to take care of,” he said. “The judge has to hear that, but I also want him to take into consideration how the people of Oxford feel.”
Meanwhile, Guillet has other issues to worry about. This past week, her husband, Nil, filed for divorce.
The town has filed a civil lawsuit against Karen Guillet in which Oxford seeks reimbursement. The lawsuit says Oxford has the right to go after her assets. Whether the divorce will affect what assets Oxford can go after remains to be seen. The civil lawsuit is being held in abeyance until after the criminal case is resolved.