Town of Littleton Completes Investigation into Misuse of Town-Issued Credit Card

Littleton Police

Littleton Police Department
Matthew J. Pinard, Chief of Police
500 Great Road,
Littleton, MA 01460

For Immediate Release

Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Phone: 781-752-9877
Email: [email protected]

Town of Littleton Completes Investigation into Misuse of Town-Issued Credit Card

LITTLETON — The Littleton Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator Nina Nazarian and Chief of Police Matthew Pinard report that the Town of Littleton and the Littleton Police Department have concluded that — as part of its criminal investigation into the alleged misuse of a town credit card — a former town official allegedly used a town-issued credit card to charge at least $100,000 worth of personal expenses. That former official is now deceased, and the Town is continuing to investigate whether additional expenses were misappropriated.

On April 1, Littleton Town Treasurer Steve Venuti located a suspicious charge on the Town’s Bank of America-issued credit card. He then requested the detailed statement of the credit card transactions and located various questionable transactions. The Town Administrator and the Board of Selectmen were notified and forwarded the information to the Littleton Police Department, which initiated an investigation with assistance from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.

Detective Sergeant Pablo Fernandez was assigned to the case as the lead investigator. He submitted his report in late August after a thorough investigation. The investigation found that the former employee used the Town of Littleton’s purchasing card over a period of several years for a number of personal expenses including makeup, sporting goods, groceries, gift cards, a video game system, clothing, and personal trips to Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Las Vegas.

In just accounting for transactions over $200 each, over a 4 year period, Sergeant Fernandez determined that there were about $100,000 in fraudulent charges on the credit card.

The criminal investigation resulted in a finding of fact but will go no further due to the death of the former employee.

The Town has continued its own internal investigation, to determine the amount of misappropriated funds and will continue to do so until we have sufficiently reviewed the entire period of the former employee’s term of employment with the Town of Littleton.

The employee allegedly covered her tracks by mischaracterizing the charges to make them appear like official purchases on the Town’s general ledger.

The Town has since changed its policies so that no individual person can spend money via credit or debit card and then record and approve the transaction on the Town’s books. Internal controls implemented to date include:

  • Littleton converted over to the Munis financial management software platform in FY2019. The software has better internal controls and built-in oversight;
    All credit card transactions will now appear on a separate warrant to provide better transparency and oversight;
  • The accounting office is reviewing all vendors to ensure they all have proper paperwork, W9 forms on file, etc.;
  • All reimbursements to department heads must now be signed off on by the Town Administrator;
  • The Town now bonds the Director of Budget and Finance/Town Accountant; and
  • The Town is in the process of initiating an independent internal control audit and has retained a firm to review all policies and procedures of the Littleton Finance Department. This includes interviews of all staff and a review of payroll, accounts payable, treasury and accounting practices

The Town of Littleton has filed a claim through its municipal insurance carrier, the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, in an attempt to recoup its losses. The Town is currently evaluating whether additional claims will be filed.

The Town of Littleton and the Littleton Board of Selectmen take the use of taxpayer dollars very seriously. Town officials and Board of Selectmen Chairman Joseph Knox believe that the Town has strengthened its policies and procedures such that an incident of this nature should not repeat itself in the future.

“This is a deeply troubling and unfortunate incident involving the theft of taxpayer dollars by a trusted former town official,” Chairman Knox said. “I would like to commend the office of the Town Treasurer for bringing this information forward and the Littleton Police Department for completing a thorough and professional investigation. While we have instituted reforms to address the issues we’ve identified, the analysis of our financial procedures will be ongoing.”

To download a copy of the Town of Littleton police report on this matter, please click here. Some information on the police report has been redacted based on the recommendation of counsel.