EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 9, 2012

Fired school custodian returns to work despite larceny charges

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

METHUEN — A school custodian fired last year for allegedly stealing more than $6,000 from her union is back working for the School Department and fighting to return to her old job.

Beth Reuter, formerly the head custodian at Comprehensive Grammar School, has been charged with 24 counts of larceny under $250 and four counts of larceny over $250.

She was fired by Superintendent Judith Scannell in May 2011, shortly after police alleged she embezzled $6,235.95 from the Methuen Custodial Association Local 1904.

Scannell said Reuter appealed her firing to the state Civil Service Commission and was awarded a junior custodian job last fall at the Central Administration Building. Located downtown at 10 Ditson Place, the Central building is now home to ninth-grade students relocated for the duration of the Methuen High School renovation project.

Scannell said Reuter is also appealing to Civil Service to get her old job back as head custodian at Comprehensive Grammar School. A call seeking comment for this story to Reuter's attorney was not returned late last week.

Reuter was arraigned in October along with former Timony Grammar School custodian Patrick Winn, who is charged with 27 counts of larceny over $250, according to Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Scannell said Winn has not worked for the School Department since he agreed to leave job at Timony Grammar School in May 2011.

Police allege Winn embezzled $22,400 from the custodian's union.

Reuter and Winn both served as union treasurers. According to police, Winn endorsed 27 checks to himself from the union's bank account during a one-year period in 2010. Reuter is alleged to have endorsed more than 30 checks to herself during a five-year period. Police said they charged Reuter with embezzling less than half of what was taken, because the statute of limitations barred charges for actions prior to 2005.

Police said both Winn and Reuter returned some of the money.

Reuter and Winn were scheduled to appear Friday in Lawrence District Court for a hearing. A motion to dismiss the case for failure to establish probable cause was denied by Judge Barbara Pearson on Feb. 27, according to court documents.

This is not the first time Reuter and Winn have run into trouble with the law.

According to court documents, Reuter was on probation after police caught her buying cocaine in the Home Depot parking lot while her children waited in her SUV in August 2007.

Methuen police arrested Winn in March 2009 on gambling charges. Police charged him with taking, allowing or being present during betting and using a telephone for gaming after two men said they placed bets of thousands of dollars on sports with him.

Judge Kevin Gaffney dismissed the first charge at the request of prosecutors, but Winn admitted to sufficient facts for the second charge. Gaffney continued the case without a finding until this June 2011, according to court documents.

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