EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 11, 2012

Custodian jury trial delayed until February

METHUEN — The jury trial for the School Department custodian accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from her union has been postponed again.

Beth Reuter, who is charged with nearly two dozen counts of larceny, was scheduled to begin her jury trial in Lawrence District Court yesterday, but it was moved to Feb. 4 because the prosecutor is involved with another trial in Newburyport, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Her trial was originally scheduled for Sept. 28, but was postponed at that time.

Methuen police began its investigation into the Methuen Custodial Association’s finances after a newly-elected union treasurer approached them about irregularities he found. Documents he turned over to police, which included canceled checks, focused on Reuter, when she served as treasurer, and her successor Patrick Winn.

In September, Winn pleaded guilty to one count of larceny over $250 and was sentenced to one year of probation on the day his jury trial was scheduled to begin. He was not fined, and restitution to the union had been paid.

From 2005 on, Reuter allegedly took $6,235.95 from the union account by writing checks to herself, though police believe she tried to return at least some of the funds, according to police and court documents.

Winn, who was elected treasurer and took over from Reuter in 2010, took $22,400 also by writing checks to himself, according to the police report. Winn and his attorney made a payment in February 2011 to the union of $22,975, which included the $22,400, a missing $550 deposit and a $25 overdraft fee, according to police and the district attorney’s office.

He resigned from the School Department on June 30, 2011, shortly after criminal charges were filed against him and Reuter.

Reuter was fired on May 26, 2011, but filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission and returned to work at the School Department on Oct. 17, 2011. That action was part of an agreement between Reuter and the School Department, and some of the key terms of the settlement agreement have been kept secret. The Civil Service Commission did not rule on Reuter’s complaint.

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