SALEM – A former Amesbury Fire Department lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to five years of probation for engaging in overtime fraud that netted him nearly $30,000 in extra pay he did not earn.
Scott Cloutier, 51, of East Kingston, New Hampshire, was sentenced to probation by Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler, who proposed the sentence during a lobby conference last month. Cloutier pleaded guilty to one count each of felony larceny of more than $250 and making a false claim to a government agency.
As a primary condition of the sentence, Cloutier must repay the $29,600 he received in overtime he submitted on time cards but didn’t work.
He will also be required to perform 200 hours of community service. Drechsler mandated that the community service be performed with other probationers in Massachusetts, as opposed to volunteering at a private organization.
Drechsler also ordered that Cloutier not appeal his termination from the Amesbury Fire Department. He is expected to use the money he contributed toward his pension to make restitution and is expected to forfeit the rest of his pension. Cloutier had run the scheme over 2½ years.
At the lobby conference last month, Drechsler called Cloutier’s crimes “completely inexcusable.”
“It’s reprehensible,” Drechsler said. “When things like this happen, it erodes the trust people have in government in general.”
At the same time, the judge said Cloutier’s lack of a prior record and his willingness to make immediate restitution were factors in the decision to spare him from jail time.
Prosecutor Lindsay Nasson, who recommended an 18-month jail term on top of probation, said the crime “shakes the public’s confidence” in public servants and government.
Nasson said an audit that covered just two years, fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018, turned up $29,600 in overtime that was paid to Cloutier but not worked.
An audit of the department’s overtime revealed Cloutier had been submitting overtime slips on days he hadn’t worked, sometimes for days when he was known to be working at his second job delivering oil for a local business, Nasson said.
She said financial records obtained by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office showed where the extra money was apparently going as well: trips to a casino, cruises and Boston Bruins season tickets.
Nasson said the sole reason for the thefts was greed, and she said Cloutier, according to those who knew him, “was one of the last people you would have expected to do something like this.”
At the lobby conference, Cloutier’s lawyer, Patrick Donovan, asked the judge to spare Cloutier from jail, saying his client had already paid a heavy price for what the lawyer called “a mistake.”
“No doubt there was a lapse in judgment, a lapse in trust,” Donovan said. “It doesn’t warrant jail time.”
Donovan said his client, who has struggled to find new work since he was fired by the department, will also pay restitution by using the portion of his pension that he paid into the system during his 22-year career — and will likely lose the remainder of his pension as a result of his conviction.
“Incarcerating him would not be a deterrent,” Donovan said. “He’s not a criminal. He hasn’t had any other issues. We’re asking the court to let him get this matter behind him.”
“He had a pretty good career,” Drechsler said, noting Cloutier’s work as an arson investigator and his rise to the rank of lieutenant. “To throw it away like this is really a tragedy.”
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.