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Bookkeeper for ANeSU pleads guilty

MIDDLEBURY — The former bookkeeper for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union in Bristol pleaded guilty in Addison District Court on Monday to one count of felony embezzlement and one count of misdemeanor petty larceny after stealing more than $40,000 from the school district.
Amy Cousino, a Bristol resident, was cited last summer for allegedly making more than $19,000 in personal purchases and payments using ANeSU credit cards. Vermont State Police detectives also said that Cousino took more than $22,000 in cash from lunch money, which she did not deposit for the district, between May 2008 and February 2009.
VSP Detective Trooper Julie Scribner estimated that Cousino embezzled lunch money or fraudulently used ANeSU credit cards at least 63 times over the course of that year. She estimated that the total amount embezzled came to $41,746.
Cousino received a deferred sentence on the embezzlement count on Monday, and was placed on probation with the Vermont Department of Corrections for five years.
She was also ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, cope with any counseling deemed necessary by the Department of Corrections, and to pay $41,746.91 in restitution to the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union. Cousino paid $10,000 of that amount at the time of sentencing.
Cousino also received a sentence of 30 days to six months in jail on the petty larceny count. The jail time was suspended for two years, during which time Cousino will be on probation.
Monday’s guilty plea came after Cousino pleaded innocent to one charge of embezzlement last summer in the wake of a months-long investigation of the alleged embezzlement.
The investigation began in February after ANeSU Superintendant Evelyn Howard reported she suspected an employee was embezzling funds. Cousino, who had worked at the office since September 2004, was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 23, 2009, and later that month resigned from her position as bookkeeper.
According to the affidavit filed with the court by VSP, Cousino initially denied any responsibility for the missing funds when confronted by Howard and ANeSU Business Manager Greg Burdick, saying that she didn’t know what had happened to the missing money but she thought someone must have stolen it. Cousino later allegedly called Burdick on Feb. 24 while crying and admitted to taking everything.
Personal charges on the ANeSU credit cards included almost $500 for a vacation in Maine; nearly $1,000 in payments to a fuel oil vendor; orthodontics bills and veterinary bills; car payments; more than $800 in Boston Bruins hockey tickets; the purchase of a hot water heater from Martin’s Hardware in Bristol; online purchases from clothing stores like the Gap, Ralph Lauren, American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch; $800 for a school trip; more than $1,800 in bills from Verizon Wireless; and other purchases.
During her investigation, Scribner found that Cousino was severely delinquent on a number of accounts, including CVPS, Waitsfield Telecom, Verizon Wireless, Dish Network, Casella, several banks, Porter Hospital, a collections agency and other accounts. Scribner learned that Countrywide Mortgage had begun foreclosure processing on Cousino’s home as well.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.

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