Former East Lyme schools lunch director pleads guilty to embezzlement
The former director of dining services for the East Lyme school system pleaded guilty today to embezzling more than $335,000 from her employer to cover losses she incurred playing slot machines at the region’s casinos.
Beverly Howard, 53, of Westerly, will be sentenced to up to 16 months in prison on June 9. She has admitted to creating false deposit logs to hide the daily theft of funds from the school kitchens between 2006 and 2009.
Howard will be ordered to repay Chartwells Dining Services, but is not expected to be able to make restitution. Judge Susan B. Handy said the restitution order will be in place in case Howard comes into a windfall, such as an inheritance or winning the lottery. She will serve five years of probation upon her release from prison.
Howard had faced up to 20 years in prison for first-degree larceny. Her attorneys, Carmine J. Giuliano and Salvatore Ritacco, had initially negotiated a lesser prison sentence for Howard, but the state’s plea offer changed this morning based on new information from the company that was victimized.
“They were not happy with the offer,” said prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla.
In a letter to the judge, John M. Cautillo, chief financial officer for Chartwells Dining Services, said that Howard had laid off an employee who handled bookkeeping, “thus eliminating an employee who might have detected the theft.” The district manager who supervised her was terminated as a result of the incident and the company’s regional vice president was issued a written warning.
Howard has been attending Gamblers Anonymous and a fellow member sent a letter of support to the court along with neighbors and a Westerly police officer.