GROVELAND — A nanny from Plaistow, N.H., with a history of stealing from her employers, was arrested and charged with larceny after the local family she worked for reported to police that jewelry and other items valued at nearly $30,000 were missing from their home.
Jessica Jean Senter, 24, of 25 Elm St., was charged with larceny over $250 and larceny from a building on Friday after an investigation by Groveland police officer Michael Traister. Senter's boyfriend, Jakub Councilman, 25, of 90 Main St., Atkinson, N.H., faces one count of larceny over $250.
They were arraigned in Haverhill District Court yesterday before Judge Patricia Dowling. Dowling ordered Councilman held on $5,000 cash bail, but ordered Senter held for violating terms of her probation on a previous larceny conviction.
According to Groveland Deputy Chief Jeff Gillen, Traister was called to the victims' Marion Avenue home May 16. The couple who lived there, who have one child, reported they had hired Senter on a part-time basis in 2010 from the website SitterCity.com.
She was brought on as a full-time nanny for their child in March. According to the report, she was given a key to the home, a car and a cellphone. She had complete access to the victims' home while they were at work.
Senter's duties included running errands with the child, taking care of the child's basic needs and supervising the child while the parents were away.
The police report stated that the Groveland couple also gave access to their home to Senter's boyfriend. He was allowed to visit their home while Senter was taking care of their child.
"This girl had worked for the Groveland family since November 2010," Gillen said. "They gave her a phone, a car to use, they put a lot of trust in her. But she and her boyfriend were ripping them off when they weren't home."
The assistant district attorney agreed.
"This is a scam that she's worked over and over," prosecutor John DePaulo told the court about Senter. "This is unbelievable. She goes in as a nanny, people leave and she steals from them. ... This is one of the most despicable MOs (method of operation) you'll ever see. These homeowners trusted her."
On the day police arrived at their home, the Groveland victims stated that they had been unable to find a tennis bracelet valued at $4,600. They found that their jewelry box had been emptied of its contents, believed to be worth $25,000 to $30,000.
Upon further inspection, they also found that a Nikita drill, a Dell desktop computer and a leafblower were also missing from the home.
Traister determined there had been no forced entry into the house and that nothing was out of order other than the missing items.
According to court records, Senter had been investigated for similar, previous incidents in Haverhill and Newburyport. In 2010, she and her boyfriend were charged with pawning a large amount of jewelry. Senter had been fired from her job as a nanny in Newburyport, where she worked for a woman who ran a jewelry business.
In another case, Senter had been charged with larceny under $250 in a case in Haverhill, where she worked for another family.
Dowling revoked Senter's bail on a previous charge of larceny, to which she had pleaded guilty and to which she was sentenced to one year in the house of correction, suspended to probation.
Traister began his investigation of the Groveland thefts by checking with pawnshops in the area. He found that Senter and Councilman had pawned at least some of the items in shops in Salem, N.H., and Plaistow. By law, anyone who sells an item at a pawnshop has to leave a photocopy of their ID, Gillen said. The IDs matched with the items that had been stolen and then pawned, Gillen said, so police issued arrest warrants for Senter and Councilman.
The Groveland victims were also shown the items recovered by Salem and Plaistow police from the pawnshop, and they identified 17 of them.
On Friday afternoon, as Senter drove down Main Street in Groveland with her boyfriend on their way to the home where she worked, they were arrested by Groveland police.
Gillen said he doesn't know why they were so desperate to undertake a crime that is relatively easy to trace, since both perpetrators were required to leave copies of their licenses when they sold the items at pawnshops.
"There's some driving force as to why they would steal from people who entrust their home to them," Gillen said.
DePaulo said he was told that Councilman has a drug problem. He said Councilman was involved in two other incidents involving Senter's stealing from families she worked for. DePaulo said Senter protected Councilman from prosecution.
"She wouldn't give him up," DePaulo said.
Councilman's lawyer, April Der Bogosian, told the court that Councilman's court record was minor, and included just one case that was continued without a finding and another that had to do with a driving offense and which was closed.
Der Bogosian asked the judge to release him on $500 to $1,000 cash bail and said his parents, who were in the courtroom, asked if there was some type of treatment program he could enter. DePaulo asked the court if Councilman could be screened for drugs in the event he makes bail.
Dowling ordered Senter to be held without bail. The judge also ordered Senter and Councilman to stay out of trouble or risk being held for up to 60 days without bail. Pretrial hearings are June 19.
Haverhill reporter Mike Labella contributed to this story.