WOONSOCKET — State prosecutors have lodged another felony charge against former Municipal Court Aide Rachel Arruda.
Arruda, 62, of Woonsocket, now faces a count of fraudulent conversion by a municipal employee, said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for the attorney general.
Arruda was arrested by the state police on Oct. 14 on one count of felony embezzlement. She is accused of pilfering $398,538 from the coffers of the city’s municipal court between 2004 and 2010, when she retired. She had worked as municipal court aide since January 1987.
Arruda was initially charged in District Court, but that case was formally closed out on Jan. 19, when new charges were lodged against her in Superior Court. The transition was part of a process known as information charging, during which prosecutors take a closer look at the package of evidence that’s been conveyed to them by law enforcement authorities. Often, the process can result in new charges.
“Sometimes a person is preliminarily charged in District Court before the investigation is complete,” said Kempe. “The evidence can be presented to a grand jury, which is mandatory in some capital cases, including murder and rape, or it can be evaluated by state prosecutors.”
Arruda, who is free on personal recognizance, is scheduled to make her next appearance in Superior Court on March 30 for a pre-arraignment conference. A date for formal arraignment will be scheduled then, said Kempe.
A well-known figure in the community, Arruda is still listed as the vice chairman of the Autumnfest Steering Committee and the chairman of its parade subcommittee on the Autumfest website. She worked for the city in various capacities since 1978.
Following her arrest, co-workers described Arruda as a woman with a taste for glitzy cars and fancy clothes, though she lives in a modest ranch house in the city’s North End.
Under state law, Arruda could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years on each count she faces if found guilty. A judge could also order to make restitution in an amount triple that which she allegedly pocketed from City Hall.
As municipal court aide, Arruda was the sole custodian of cash and checks paid to the court as fines, largely for motor vehicle offenses. The court’s only other employee is the judge, who does not get involved in handling money.
Arruda’s was the second high-profile case of embezzlement to emerge from City Hall last year. Treasury clerk Michelle Giguere was arrested on two counts after she was accused of converting some $7,000 of the city’s money for her own use last September.
According to the judiciary’s website, the state has also lodged additional charges against Giguere since her initial arrest. She is now facing five counts in Superior Court, including embezzlement over $100; wrongful conversion over $100; unlawful appropriation over $1,000; accessing a computer to commit fraud; and illegally accessing a computer.
Giguere is due in Superior Court on April 4 for a pre-arraignment conference.
Like Arruda, she’s free on personal recognizance.