NEWBURYPORT – A former Amesbury Fire Department lieutenant avoided jail time Tuesday after admitting to a judge he could be found guilty of collecting more than $2,000 in overtime pay for hours he didn’t work.
Craig Deguio, 48, of Newton, New Hampshire, was arraigned in Newburyport District Court in October on a single count of larceny over $1,200.
He was the second of two former Amesbury Fire Department lieutenants to be charged with stealing thousands of dollars from the city by collecting overtime pay they didn’t earn.
In July, Scott Cloutier admitted to a Salem Superior Court judge that he collected $29,600 in overtime pay he didn’t earn and was sentenced to five years of probation.
After admitting to sufficient facts Tuesday, Deguio saw the larceny charge continued without a finding for two years. If he stays out of trouble with the law and pays back the $2,414, the charge would be dropped after that time.
Deguio was going to pay the city back immediately after leaving the courtroom Tuesday, according to his attorney.
David Carpentier, who leads the Amesbury Fire Department’s union, declined to comment on Deguio’s court appearance or the overtime scandal that led to two firefighters facing jail time.
“The rest of the membership is still working hard to protect the city,” Carpentier said.
Essex County prosecutor Shailagh Kennedy asked Doyle to find Deguio guilty and sentence him to two years of probation, calling his actions a “violation of public trust.”
Kennedy said the department’s overtime pay is on an honor system, a system Deguio violated 25 times when he stole from the city by submitting fraudulent overtime slips.
“More importantly, it involved the taxpayers,” Kennedy said.
Deguio’s attorney asked that his client be spared a guilty finding, saying Deguio had already seen his life adversely affected by his actions. Specifically, the attorney said Deguio was forced to resign from the department before he could earn full pension benefits.
The attorney also said that while it did not diminish Deguio’s violation of the public’s trust, he stole a “relatively small amount.”
The investigation of Deguio and Cloutier began in early May 2018 when firefighter Chris Lesage was reviewing overtime slips submitted by firefighters. He noticed that Cloutier submitted slips for shifts Lesage felt hadn’t been worked.
Lesage brought the slips to then-Local 1783 President Iain McGregor and other officials with the union.
McGregor and others confronted Cloutier with their concerns, but he denied any wrongdoing, according to court records. McGregor then spoke with his attorney and placed the overtime slips in Cloutier’s locker. Fire Chief Ken Berkenbush was never informed, the court record said.
“All of this information was allegedly widely known throughout the department and kept from the fire chief,” according to police Lt. Kevin F. Donovan, who led the investigation.
A week later, a whistleblower in the department alerted Berkenbush, who relayed the news to Police Chief William Scholtz and the mayor’s office.
In his report, Donovan wrote, “It should be noted that none of the lieutenants or the executive union board notified the chief.”
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.