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Police: Woman embezzled thousands of dollars from fire district

March 28, 2014

CUMBERLAND – Former Cumberland Fire District Tax Collector Karen B. Lambert, 48, of 15 West Wrentham Road, was arrested by the State Police Financial Crimes Unit on Friday and charged in the alleged embezzlement of $83,761.54 in district cash tax receipts and other alleged crimes.
Lambert also faces a charge of embezzling $11,667.93 from a Woonsocket property management company she also work for and allegedly using those proceeds in an attempt to cover her alleged fire district thefts, Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, state police superintendent, said in announcing the arrest.
State police also charged Lambert with using $700 in fire district revenue to have a new home computer system installed at her Cumberland residence, according to O’Donnell.
The case against Lambert began to unfold back in June of 2013 when members of the State Police Financial Crimes Unit executed a search warrant at the fire district headquarters at 1530 Mendon Road after gaining information from a “credible source.’’ State Police left the District, one of the town four independent fire district operations, with four boxes of documents, files and paperwork.
Fire District Chairman James N. Leonard said that the time that the investigation had nothing to do with the District’s Firefighters or Chief John Walsh and noted that investigators had indicated at the time as much as $20,000 could be missing.
State Police Maj. Todd E. Catlow, detective commander, said Friday that Cumberland Fire District members were very cooperative with the investigation of Lambert’s alleged activities and had hired an independent forensic auditor, “Daniel J. Rubiano, CPA and Company, “to review all of the district’s financial information.” It was the results of the forensic auditor that assisted State Police investigators in determining the charged to be brought against Lambert, Catlow said.
The resulting information alleged Lambert embezzled $83,761.54 in district cash tax receipts from September 2008 through August 2013.
“People came into the Fire District to pay their bills and she took the payment and recorded it but it never made it to the bank,” Catlow said.
She also then embezzled $11,667.93 from the Woonsocket property management company where she worked as a bookkeeper and used those funds in the attempt to cover the thefts from the district.
The computer for her home was found to have been purchased with a check from the fire district, Catlow added.
Once the investigation began, Catlow said there was an initial suspicion of Lambert’s involvement. “She was the tax collector and the money was missing, that was the inference,” the state police major said.
State Police Sgt. Staci Shepherd of the office of Computer Crimes also joined the investigation as did State Police Corporal Kenneth Buonaiuto of the Financial Crimes Unit, Catlow said.
Lambert had been appointed as assistant tax collector for the district in September of 2006 and then promoted to tax collector in June of 2008, according to state police.
Members of the fire district could not be reached for comment on the case Friday, but O’Donnell also noted the District had “cooperated fully,” with the investigation.
Following her arrest Friday, Lambert was processed at the Lincoln Woods State Police Barracks and then arraigned on the charges in Sixth Division District Court before Associate Judge Christine S. Jabour. She was released on $20,000 personal recognizance and is scheduled to appear in Sixth Division District Court on June 2 for a pre-arraignment conference, according to Catlow.
State police noted the penalty for a conviction of felony embezzlement is a fine of not more than $50,000 or three times the value of the money or property embezzled, which ever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.

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