'Lifelong thief' sentenced to seven years for theft at Catholic school

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

”The only thing I can say is, right from the get go, I said I moved the money,” he said. “I apologize for that. It was never for personal gain.”

Licitra, 43, of Uncasville, cried as he stood before Judge Susan B. Handy for sentencing in New London Superior Court. He had pleaded no contest to first-degree larceny in May.

While working at the Catholic high school in Uncasville, he diverted checks into a “Sunshine Camp” account that he had opened in 2002 at the Bank of America without the knowledge of his superiors.

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 essentially 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 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.

The judge sentenced Licitra to 16 years in prison, suspended after seven years served and five years of probation. She ordered him to make restitution of the full amount, acknowledging he would never repay the full amount unless he came into a windfall, such as winning the lottery. The state can only force Licitra to make payments, based on what he can afford, while he is on probation. St. Bernard can pursue a civil court case, and school officials have already notified Licitra they intend to sue him.

Defense attorney Dado Coric said there is no indication that Licitra, whose personal finances 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.

Licitra has a criminal record dating back to the 1980s. He once served four years for stealing $80,000 from an employer. St. Bernard hired him in 1990 without conducting a full background check. k.florin@theday.com
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