By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The former chairwoman of the Pentucket Regional School Committee — accused of stealing as much as $60,000 over several years from a West Newbury couple who hired her to oversee their personal finances and small business — escaped jail time last week after agreeing to pay back her alleged victims.
As a result of the agreement, the majority of the 30 charges of credit card fraud and larceny against Maureen A. Moran, 3 Landau Lane, Merrimac, were dismissed with prejudice by the state. Three counts of falsifying/omitting entries in books were dropped as well under the legal term nolle prosequi, meaning the state declined to prosecute.
Moran turned herself in to state police last March and was arraigned in Newburyport District Court on nine counts of forgery of a check and larceny over $250, three counts of falsify/omit entry in books, one count of improper use of a credit card over $250 and eight counts of uttering a false check.
Had she been convicted, Moran, whose term on the Pentucket Regional School Committee expired in 2011, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison or two years in jail for each of the most serious felonies.
“We’re pleased with the outcome of the case,” Vincent Harrild, one of the victims, said.
Harrild said he could not comment on the settlement saying it would violate the terms of the agreement reached with Moran.
Essex County District Attorney spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan confirmed the case against Moran was dismissed, but was unable to provide details of the settlement at this time. Kimball Monahan added the state’s decision to dismiss the case against Moran with prejudice means it cannot recharge Moran.
According to court documents, the charges against Moran stem from the period between July 2006 to March 2008, when she served as bookkeeper for the Boston Coaching Company, a small business focusing on career development and management run out of the home of a West Newbury couple.
Originally hired in 2001 as an office assistant working 10 hours a week, Moran’s responsibilities were increased in 2002 and again in 2005 to include overseeing the couple’s personal finances. She was also responsible for filing the couple’s tax returns. Moran, who was never required to submit a time card, was trusted implicitly by her employers and would get paid no more than $300 a month, according to court documents.
But during the period of April 2006 and December 2007, according to the police report of state Trooper Robert LaBarge, Moran used the couple’s American Express Card to pay for dinners, gasoline, groceries and shopping excursions.
Among the places police say Moran used the charge card were Applebee’s Restaurant, Linens n Things, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, the American Girl Company, Jewel in the Crown in Newburyport, The Gap and Sal’s Pizza in Amesbury. In all, police said Moran charged $8,512 to the American Express Card over that time period.
Police also said that Moran forged the signature of her employers on several checks written to herself and others in amounts ranging from $300 to $5,500. Police estimated that the unauthorized checks written to Moran herself amounted to $9,750.
Moran was fired from her job in June 2008 for alleged incompetence, according to court documents. By the time of her firing, the victims were more than $60,000 in debt, the files say.
Harrild said the couple started getting suspicious in 2009 when they received a tax bill from the Internal Revenue Service for more than $43,000, stating that the couple had not filed their taxes in 2007.
The case against Moran was first investigated by West Newbury police in May 2010, when the couple reported allegations of embezzlement and larceny.
The investigation was initially conducted by officer Royster Johnson IV, who wrote in his report that as early as 2005, the business was bleeding money and required the constant infusion of capital to keep it operating. At the same time, Moran approached Harrild with the suggestion of refinancing the family’s house to obtain needed capital. Moran also approached the victims demanding $10,000 in back wages, according to Johnson’s report.
During her lengthy tenure on the Pentucket Regional School Committee, Moran was instrumental in approving several school budgets and was called upon to seek ways to plug budget holes as large as $800,000.