Former St. Bernard employee sentenced to seven years for thefts

Salvatore Licitra Jr. denied stealing from St. Bernard High School even as he was sentenced today to seven years in prison for embezzling $841,000 from the school.

Licitra insists that he used the money for cash payments to bus drivers and mechanics and other school-related purposes, but prosecutor David J. Smith said Licitra has a long history of stealing from employers and people he knows. Licitra ingratiates himself with his employers, Smith said, then takes advantage of them.

"That was the case with St. Bernard," Smith said. "Once he was enmeshed in that system, he essential began to steal them blind."

Licitra stole checks from the school and falsified expense reports to get away with it, Smith said.

Headmaster William McKenna had sent the court a letter talking about the impact on the school emotionally and financially. In handing down the sentence, Judge Susan B. Handy told Licitra he could delude himself about using the money for the good of the school, but that he is not deluding the court.

"You are a thief, sir, and you’ve been a thief your entire life," Handy said.

Defense attorney Dado Coric said there is no indication that Licitra, whose personal finance were in disarray, had used the money to pay his bills or fund a drug or gambling habit. He said it was an unusual case, because the stolen money has not been located.

"If you don’t believe him, then where’s the money?" Coric said.

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