By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Woodstock woman entered an innocent plea to a single felony count of embezzlement Thursday afternoon before being released from the Windsor County Courthouse in downtown White River Junction on personal recognizance conditions.
Pamela Smith, 56, stood rigidly and stared straight ahead while an attorney carried out the brief arraignment on her behalf.
Smith is accused of using her position as the part-time bookkeeper for the Shire Riverview motel to divert over $220,000 to her personal use, primarily through a series of checks that were made out to herself and through electronic payments of her own household bills directly from the inn’s bank account.
Shire Riverview owner Dorothy DiCarlo said she never suspected Smith and instead stumbled on the alleged thefts after she returned from vacation in late March and she was surprised by how low the balances were in the Inn’s operational account. DiCarlo wrote in her statement to police that she started flipping through checks to see what was going on and the very first one she happened to look at was made out directly to Smith for $2,400.
DiCarlo said when she asked Smith why she would need to write a check to herself Smith would not answer her directly and instead kept saying, “I will take responsibility for that check.”
Concerned, DiCarlo said she and her husband Vincent began looking through their business records that evening and quickly found over $50,000 in suspect payments to Smith and to her personal creditors for things like her home cable, propane, and phone bills that appeared to have been paid electronically from the Inn’s bank accounts.
Although the Inn had a computerized QuickBooks system that the DiCarlos said they reviewed periodically, Dorothy DiCarlo wrote that Smith appeared to have defeated it by entering “phony bills” from companies that the inn routinely did business with, paying them, and then at the last moment changing the business name on the payee line of the checks to her name. DiCarlo said Smith appeared to have cashed all of the fraudulent checks using a night deposit box at a branch of their bank in another town so as not to bring the unusual checks to the attention of the Woodstock branch which she said might have been quicker to catch the discrepancies.
“I was shocked and numb because she was a trusted friend and employee,” DiCarlo wrote of her discovery.
Smith, who does not have a prior criminal record, faces a maximum potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison if she were to be convicted of the felony charge now pending against her.
See more in next week’s Vermont Standard, August 1, 2013.