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Brewster reacts to embezzlement indictment

June 25, 2009
WOLFEBORO — A grand jury at the Carroll County Superior Court in Ossipee indicted Barbara Ouellette, 62, of Ossipee on four felony counts for embezzling nearly $118,000 from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro during at least seven years of her employment as a bookkeeper for the school.

The two Class A felonies, including the crime of Theft by Unauthorized Taking and Theft by Misapplication of Property, each carry a penalty of seven and a half to 15 years in state prison. The indictment in the former states that "she obtained or exercised unauthorized control over money, the property of Brewster Academy, with the purpose to deprive the owner thereof."

In the latter, the jury found that Ouellette "obtained money from Citizens Bank, the property of Brewster Academy, which she was required to deposit into petty cash and/or student accounts and she purposely failed to make that disposition and she treated the property as her own."

The two Class B felonies state that Ouellette committed the crime of forgery. One lists 66 checks drawn on the account of Brewster Academy that had been signed by the business manager Robert Simoneau and then "altered without his authority." The other lists 26 checks drawn on the same account "purported to have been signed by Robert Simoneau, but were not." The penalty for a Class B felony is anywhere from three and a half to seven years.

According to the academy's Communications Director, Marcia Eldredge, the investigation began in November 2008 with the school's discovery of a banking irregularity, When it was revealed that the employee had been misappropriating funds for a number of years, the school notified the Wolfeboro Police Department and placed Ouellette on unpaid administrative leave, pending the outcome.

By late December, the investigation, led by Officer Guy Maloney and overseen by Sgt. Scott Moore, was complete, and Ouellette was terminated from employment.

Head of School Dr. Michael E. Cooper termed it an "isolated incident" and assures that "the Academy operations are not affected." He added, "It is unfortunate that something like this could occur, and we are currently examining all of our financial practices with our auditors and our finance committee to ensure that the school has the best possible controls and safeguards in place."

Ouellette began working at Brewster Academy in 1997. The indictments cover thefts occurring between December 20, 2001 through September 24, 2008. Generally, certified bank records go back seven years.

She appeared for arraignment at the Carroll County Superior Court on June 24, but waived her right to a court hearing. She entered a plea of not guilty and will be assigned a public defender. Bail was set at $50,000 on personal recognizance.

Brewster Academy Business Manager Robert Simoneau and business department employees Elaine Hazeltine and Marsha Brooks, all of whom worked with Ouellette during her tenure at the academy, were in attendance, upon recommendation of Melissa Smith of the Carroll County Victim Witness Advocate Program.

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