METHUEN - Former Methuen school business manager Joseph Salvo stands to lose his nearly $4,000 monthly state pension after pleading guilty to stealing $38,000 worth of computers, electronics, tools and more from the school district.
Salvo, 66, of Methuen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to larceny of property over $250 and embezzlement by a municipal officer. He was sentenced to six months in jail, with three months to serve and the balance suspended for one year.
Salvo will serve his sentence at the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center, a minimum security facility off Marston Street, nicknamed "The Farm." At some point in the next three months, Salvo may be eligible for release from The Farm on an electronic monitoring bracelet, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins said yesterday.
Under state law, Salvo's convictions of work-related crimes mean his $3,993.63 gross monthly pension can be forfeited or reduced. James Salvie, general counsel for the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System, said pension payments can be halted if a person is convicted of a crime related to their public office or position. A hearing will be held to determine if the pension will be stopped entirely or reduced.
Defense attorney Neil Faigel said Salvo was aware he could lose his public pension payment by pleading guilty.
Salvo was Methuen's school business manager from 2003 until his abrupt retirement in January 2008. Also contributing to his public pension payment are stints on the Methuen School Committee and City Council from 1988 to 2002, according to state pension and city records.
When asked if Salvo will fight a pension loss or reduction, Faigel said "we have to look and see what level of forfeiture they are looking at and make a determination then."
On Tuesday, after a three-year investigation involving local, state and federal agencies, Salvo pleaded guilty to stealing and embezzling from the school department by racking up at least $38,000 worth of purchases of tools, laptops, digital cameras, cartons of Italian tile and more on school credit cards.
In January 2008, when Salvo felt the FBI agents were closing in on him, he tried to cover his trail of theft. He loaded the illicitly purchased tools, cameras and other items into trash bags and asked other school employees to drop them off at the school department for him.
Then, Salvo, of 107 Woodburn Drive, also abruptly quit his $91,789 a year job, citing poor health and an interest in pursuing "career opportunities elsewhere."
But court records indicate Salvo resigned after former School Superintendent Jeanne Whitten began to closely monitor use of the School Department's Home Depot credit card. Sexual harassment complaints against Salvo also surfaced, according to court documents which did not detail those allegations.
Tuesday, Salvo was arraigned on the criminal charges and then immediately entered his guilty pleas. After he was sentenced by Judge Michael Brooks, Salvo, a father of three and grandfather of 10, was handcuffed and taken to Middleton Jail.
Sheriff Cousins said Salvo was taken to the infirmary at Middleton Jail, where his medical issues were being evaluated. When he resigned in 2008, Salvo said he suffered from diabetes and other medical problems.
Yesterday, a board of jail officials determined Salvo would be suitable from transfer to the The Farm. When he arrives, Salvo's job there will be in an area known as the "tool crib." He will be responsible for cleaning and storing tools the 340 inmates at the Farm use, Cousins said.
"There's no reason he shouldn't be held in a pre-release setting," he said.
Inmates convicted of sex offense or firearms charges are not eligible for incarceration at the Farm, the largest pre-release facility in New England, Cousins said
Corrections officers there monitor up to 340 inmates and 70 others released on GPS electronic monitoring bracelets, he said.
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