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February 14, 2013

Custodian convicted for stealing from union

LAWRENCE — The Methuen school custodian accused of stealing thousands of dollars from her union was found guilty of felony larceny by a jury and sentenced to jail yesterday in district court.

Beth Reuter, 48, of Methuen, was found guilty by a jury of four women and two men of one count larceny of property greater than $250 in value by a single scheme, a felony. Judge Michael Uhlarick sentenced her to one year in jail, with 30 days to serve and the remainder suspended for three years.

Assistant District Attorney Annaliese Wolf asked for one year of jail, with the whole term suspended for three years. But Uhlarick said Reuter robbed her fellow workers while serving as secretary/treasurer of the Methuen Custodial Association and “there needs to be accountability.”

“These hard working custodians entrusted someone to control the purse strings” of the union, he said.

Methuen Superintendent Judith Scannell has not yet made a decision about Reuter’s future as a senior custodian at Comprehensive Grammar School.

“The Methuen Public Schools has just learned of the outcome of Ms. Reuter’s trial,” Scannell said. “As we are still processing information, a decision regarding her employment will be made in due time.”

Reuter did not react as the jury returned a guilty verdict after nearly an hour of deliberation. After Uhlarick handed down the sentence, Reuter was taken into custody.

Wolf on Tuesday worked to show that Reuter had written more than a dozen checks to herself from the union’s bank account amounting to $5,815 over the course of about 18 months in 2006 and 2007. She stressed the district attorney’s office believed Reuter stole much more over a longer period of time, but the Methuen Police Department only charged her for actions during that time frame.

Yesterday, defense attorney Michael F. Hogan tried to sow doubt that the funds withdrawn from the union account was spent on anything but union business and questioned the memory of witness Ken DiGuilio, the union’s current secretary/treasurer.

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