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The Downfall of a Once Trusted Public Figure

Longtime Tax Collector Karen Guillet admitted to stealing money after officials approached her with proof of fraud from auditors.

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 in 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.

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 Friday. 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."

The following information is from a Patch story published Friday:

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. 

Ed Spruck April 04, 2011 at 10:01 PM
You know reading the account of the confronting of Tax Collector Guillet brings to mind this question. In any other case, once the person admits to thief they are cuffed and booked! Innocence is no longer in doubt. How come the First Selectman was not as quick to call the Troopers to come get the Guillet as she was for the drunk? And when is she and the DTC going to return to the town the contributions Guillet made to them using stolen tax payer money?
MOM April 05, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Get a grip, Spruck! Honestly, you can't wait to throw the First Selectman under the bus any chance you get. The "drunk" story backfired so give that up as well, this tax collector issue is a criminal case, the State Police are in charge. Guillet was very charitable with whoever's money it was and donated to many organizations in Town. Are you going after everyone else too? Ask your RTC when they and KOG will discuss their "financial friendship" from this past election.
Rachael R April 05, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Fraud is a federal offense that should be reported. Any reported fraud would , no doubt, involve an investigation to see not only what monies were taken, but also show what, or whom may have benefited from that fraud. I believe Ed is on to something.
Paul Singley April 05, 2011 at 01:53 AM
As a point of clarification I wanted to note that state police have confirmed that Drayton-Rogers did report this to them. It is not specifically stated in this article but is in previous articles. It also states above that the State Police Western District Major Crimes Squad continues to investigate and say these cases could take up to five years of investigations.
Ed Spruck April 05, 2011 at 12:09 PM
The point is Guillet admitted her guilt in public that she stole $3,000 of public money. That’s not a misdemeanor. She should be arrested on that charge alone. I’m glad the First Selectman called the Troopers. But can some one explain why arrest wasn’t required given the public admission of guilt of stealing $3,000 of public money? If she donated to charities fine, I like charities. Gifts to any politician or political entity since 2003 should be returned to the town. How many politicians have returned tainted money or donated it charity? Information on donations is at OPM state wide and the Town Clerk for local contributions. Do we have to accept the State Polices estimate of 5 years to arrest an admitted felon? Have we become so comfortable with theft of a large amount of public money that no one is outraged any more? Does everyone out there want to “give it arrest” and sweep it under the rug? Come on folks, if it was only the $3,000 I wouldn’t care. BUT it’s $671,000+ of ALL our money; we should ALL want restitution to our general fund by the end of 2011 rather than 2015.
Rachael R April 05, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Ed, Charges for the $3,000 theft were obviously not made, or else Mrs. Guillet would have been arrested. This fact certainly begs a question, or two. If any political group, or individual politician has any ill-gotten contributions in their coffers his/her ethics, honesty, and integrity should be called into question immediately, not after a long investigation. It would certainly be known if Mrs. Guillet made a contribution, and one would think any honest person would not want the taint associated with accepting her money under these circumstances.
Rachael R April 05, 2011 at 11:01 PM
What is Mrs. Drayton-Rogers title with regard to our town's police department? Perhaps one of you know.
CMG April 05, 2011 at 11:20 PM
To start, my comment is not political and has nothing to do with any party. So Mrs. Guillet stole your money, my money and everyone elses to give to charity? Really? What a joke. So a little for charity, a lot for herself? I make my own charitable contributions, thank you. All I know is that if it was you or me or any other "common" Oxfordite, our butts would have been hauled to jail that very same day and the book thrown at us. Everyone is having hard times, but we aren't robbing banks and stealing money. Sorry, I have no sympathy.
Tina April 06, 2011 at 12:32 AM
MOM, I don't care who Karen donated the stolen money to, my question is do you really think she would have gave any of HER OWN money. I don't think so, yes she was generous because it wasn't her's. Plus she knew that she could go to work the next day and get a easy couple of thousand dollars. So MOM, I wouldn't give her to much credit for donating our money.
Jean April 06, 2011 at 01:31 AM
I hope we will not cloud the issue, of stolen money by the ex-tax collector, with whom money was "donated" !!! Why talk about donations to charity or what ever "donations" she contributed. Tina is on target IT WAS NOT HER MONEY. We should find out why the officals are not going all the way back until the deposits match up. She was in for 25 years. I will give her, that the first few years in office she was honest but after that who knows. We are looking at $ 671,000. in what 5 or 6 years. How much did she steal in 15 or 20 years?? Let us keep on track and start asking how much has the town lost through the years. I also have no sympathy for a thief.
Karen Mandeville April 06, 2011 at 01:48 PM
I agree with Jean, they need to go back to the beginning, it most likely started small and grew, 25 years is a long time. She was always so very cheerful, I thought it a bit odd, but in light of everything it makes sense. So maybe in 5 years she'll get jail time? Wow she is very lucky.
J April 06, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Karen is a wonderful, kind, and generous person. Won't you people just leave her alone? She is human, like all of us. Take your pick axes and go home.
Dad in Oxford April 06, 2011 at 08:55 PM
J, sorry to tell you, but if the allegations are true and I think the likelyhood is that they are, she deserves no sympathy from anyone, Humans have the choice to do good in life or bad, and she choose the wrong path. It makes no difference if she was good before, she desrves to go to jail for her alleged crimes and when convicted, she should be made an example by throwing her in jail for the maximum amount of time possible under the law. To me, the Auditors have some explaining to do too and the BOF should never consider hiring this same Auditing firm again.
Paul Singley April 07, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Note to readers: We took down a comment from Nnancy because we thought the Jeffrey Dahmer reference may have been a little over the top.
Jim April 08, 2011 at 05:05 AM
I believe there is a statute of limitations on larceny. That is probably why they only went back 6 years. At this point does it really matter if it's 600,000 or 6,000, 000.? I don't see the town being able to recoup all the money, so why pay more auditors? I feel sorry for her children who are living with the embarrassment. Perhaps we can go easy on these public comments for the sake of her family and not cause them anymore pain and embarrassment.
Rob April 08, 2011 at 10:36 AM
Lets see a young man steals a TV from Mom and goes to Jail retail price say $800, A women steals $600,000 cash from town and sits at home collecting a town pention. Wow are we the crazy ones here. Please tell be she posted bail for big bucks and tell me why she did not spend a night in jail.
Janis Hardy April 08, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Auditors can only go back as far as the Town still has the tax collector's old records. The Town is not legally obligated to keep certain kinds of records forever, like the Town Clerk's office does. State Statutes provide a mechanism for the legal disposal of these records after a specific period of time. I am sure that auditors are examining all the records the Town still has possession of, and I suspect Karen did not have control over when they were destroyed. Feel free to check into the statutes. Town Hall does not have unlimited storage space and it is highly likely most records are destroyed as soon as they are legally permitted.
Hank June 07, 2011 at 09:00 PM
HEY, welcome to the Peoples Republik of Connecticut....whats yours is everyones...please make sure that the tax collector doesn't move to the santuary city of new haven
Tina June 09, 2011 at 12:05 AM
I understand that it takes some time to put all the evidence together to make a case, but doesn't anyone feel that she has walked around as a free women long enough. It's not like she took a pair of shoes, she has taken thousands upon thousands of dollars from hard working people. She needs to start to do her time.
Craig Zac June 18, 2011 at 12:26 PM
she only took 200,000.00 some odd dollars, the 6 hundread change comes from the court saying we can sue for triple the money... at least thats how I read it. Any how, arresting her for the 3 grand she said she took would maybe hurt the lawsuit for the 6 hundread thou? like, you cant be arrested twice for the same thing? I dont know, im no lawyer. But ay any rate blaming MADR and then comparing it to the drunk driver thing is truly a stretch and reeks like schoolyard political tactics so prevelant in the system nowadays... make me think that untill it stops, i should not vote again...and im an independant so BOTH parties hurt themselves.

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