EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 13, 2013

Convicted custodian fired

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The custodian convicted last month of embezzling thousands of dollars from her union over a period of years was terminated last week from the School Department.

Beth Reuter, 48, a senior custodian at Comprehensive Grammar School, was fired March 7, Superintendent Judith Scannell said. Reuter’s last day of paid employment was Feb. 13, the day a jury convicted her of one felony count of larceny of property greater than $250 in value by a single scheme.

Judge Michael Uhlarick sentenced her to 30 days in jail, and she was taken into custody at the end of her trial. Department of Corrections director of public affairs Diane Wiffin said Reuter served her sentence at Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Framingham until Feb. 28, when she was transferred to another jurisdiction.

Wiffin said she did not have information on where she was transferred. A message left with Kevin Maccioli, public affairs officer for Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, seeking information on where she was transferred was not returned.

A message seeking comment left with attorney Michael Hogan, who represented Reuter during her trial, was not returned.

In 2011, Reuter was charged with nearly 30 counts of larceny for writing numerous checks to herself totaling $6,235.95 while she was treasurer of the Methuen Custodial Association over a period of five years, according to the original Methuen Police report.

The prosecutor in last month’s trial focused on about 20 checks totaling $5,815 over the course of about 18 months in 2006 and 2007.

The checks were discovered after an officer in the Methuen Custodial Association reviewed account records in 2011. Patrick Winn, a former custodian at Methuen schools and a one-time secretary/treasurer, was charged with stealing $22,400 from the union. He pleaded guilty to a single felony larceny charge in September and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Methuen police arrested Winn in March 2009 on gambling charges after two men said they placed thousands of dollars in sports bets with him. He admitted to sufficient facts for one of the charges, and his case was continued the case without a finding, according to court documents.

In 2007, Reuter was charged after trying to buy cocaine in a Home Depot parking lot with her children in the car.

Scannell fired Reuter on May 26, 2011, after criminal complaints for larceny were filed in Lawrence District Court, and Reuter appealed to the Civil Service Commission. Reuter and the School Department signed a settlement agreement in November 2011 that brought her back to work, at a lower base wage that totaled $43,222.40 per year. Six months later, on May 27, 2012, her pay was bumped back up to a salary of $62,905, the rate she was payed before she was fired, according to School Department records.

Civil Service did not issue any ruling in that case, and Reuter withdrew her complaint as part of the agreement.

Scannell released a copy of the settlement agreement to last summer, but key terms of the agreement were redacted. A request to the School Department last month for an unredacted copy of the agreement was denied.

Winn resigned from the School Department in June 2012.

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