DA gets report on stolen money

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LIVERMORE – The investigation into $102,000 stolen from the town’s Sewer Department has been closed, Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. William Gagne told selectmen Monday.

Gagne turned his report over to District Attorney Norm Croteau. Information in it will be presented to an Androscoggin County grand jury in June to determine if charges will be brought in the case.

Former sewer clerk Faith Nichols admitted taking the money, Gagne said, and has cooperated during the investigation.

“She has told me she intends to repay the whole amount,” Gagne said. She’s already repaid $25,000, he said.

The next step is for the district attorney to review the case.

Resident Wayne Knowlton asked if Nichols would face charges if she repays the money.

She could still be charged, Gagne said.

This case is a little different from some others, he said.

“Most people don’t make restitution beforehand,” Gagne said, especially in that amount.

Gagne has been investigating the missing money since December after auditors found some discrepancies in the sewer accounts, conducted an audit and brought their findings to selectmen’s attention.

Livermore Falls police asked that the investigation be turned over to the sheriff’s department to avoid a possible conflict.

Selectmen had announced in December that $102,000 was missing and that Nichols, who lives in Livermore Falls, had admitted taking it.

Nichols, 36, resigned from her job in November. She had repaid $20,000 in December when selectmen announced the money was missing and has repaid an additional $5,000.

Ron Smith of RHR Smith & Co. told selectmen in December that Nichols had manipulated and destroyed town records, which had gone unnoticed for a long time.

Money was taken over 18 months with most of it missing during a nine-month period, he said then.

The auditing firm, with the help of a software company, recreated the town’s records for the 18 months beginning in February 2004, Smith said. He also said that many of the cash receipts were recorded, back-dated, and customer history purged from the town’s financial software after data entry. Many cash receipts and sewer aging reports could not be obtained from management, he said.

Smith also said management confronted the sewer clerk regarding allegations of missing funds, and “the sewer clerk has admitted to using these funds for personal use.”

Nichols had nearly complete oversight of funds collected for the sewer department, Smith said.

Since then selectmen have taken the auditor’s recommendation and changed the way things are done and overseen.

Town Treasurer Kristal Flagg now has more oversight of the sewer finances.

The sewer funds now go through the front counter so that Flagg will be able to keep track of the money.

In December, Smith said the town will get its money back and plans to file a civil lawsuit against the former sewer clerk and attach a lien on her home.

It will also file a claim with its insurance company for coverage under a clause pertaining to dishonest employees.


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