A pair of sisters who worked as lunch ladies in Connecticut schools were arrested over the weekend after officials say they embezzled nearly half a million dollars. The funds were taken over a five-year span, though detectives say the actual number could be much higher, NBC Connecticut reports.
Authorities arrested 61-year-old Joanne Pascarelli, of Wilton, and 67-year-old Marie Wilson, of Stratford, on charges of first-degree larceny by defrauding a community.
According to arrest warrants obtained by the Hartford Courant, a worker complained about possible theft occurring in the cafeterias of schools in New Canaan, and an investigation ensued. In November 2017, Pascarelli, who ran the food program at Saxe Middle School, was placed on administrative leave before resigning in December, after reportedly learning she would soon be fired.
Just days later, Wilson, who worked as the assistant food director at New Canaan High School, resigned.
Detectives said fellow cafeteria workers from the schools told them they didn’t count the money in their own registers before or after their shifts, alleging that the sisters were instead collecting the drawers and counting the cash in their own offices.
Without revealing how much she was taking, employees said Pascarelli would visit the cafeteria and take large bills out of their registers between lunch periods, the woman’s arrest warrant states.
When one employee questioned Pascarelli about how she was handling the money, she was reportedly forced to wash dishes for months as retaliation, according to arrest warrants.
Another worker, who told authorities she was astonished that the school didn’t discover the thefts sooner, said she also raised concerns about the handling of cash and was subsequently transferred from the high school to the middle school by Wilson.
Additionally, cashiers told police the duo had them signing blank bank deposit slips.
Wilson and Pascarelli stand accused of stealing a total of $478,588 from 2012 to 2017, though detectives say that figure could be much higher as the thefts may have been going on for up to 15 years. However, the state’s attorney’s office have investigators focusing on the five-year span due to statutes of limitations.
Police say the sisters are denying any wrongdoing. An attorney for Wilson, proclaiming the woman’s innocence, said she is “not going to be scapegoated,” according to The Washington Post.
Both women were released from custody after posting a $50,000 bond each. Wilson is due in court on August 21 while Pascarelli’s court date is August 24.
[Feature Photo: Marie Wilson Joanne Pascarelli, New Canaan Police Department]