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Ex-MREMS official gets sentenced for embezzlement

MIDDLEBURY — A former co-director of Middlebury Regional EMS ambulance service has served seven days in jail and will spend the next three years on probation after pleading guilty in October to two felony charges of embezzlement, stemming from allegations that she stole a combined total of $7,802 from the nonprofit over a more than year-long period to pay for personal items, gifts for friends and her own medical expenses.
Documents on file at the Frank Mahady Courthouse detail Lisa Northup’s plea, which she entered on Oct. 1. She originally faced four felony embezzlement charges, but the Addison County State’s Attorney’s office agreed to dismiss two of them.
Addison County Superior Court Judge Alison Arms accepted Northup’s plea and pronounced a sentence of one to three years in prison, all suspended except seven days, along with probation, according to court records.
Northup served her jail time at the Chittenden Regional Correction Facility, according to court records.
Her probation conditions include that she not be employed where she might be directly involved in handling cash or credit cards, and that she not serve as a financial guardian.
Resolution of the case ends a long and sad saga for Middlebury Regional EMS, which runs its organization on a tight margin and depends greatly on citizen contributions to run its service. The Middlebury-based nonprofit provides around-the-clock medical, rescue and ambulance services to residents in 10 Addison County communities.
The MREMS board issued a statement, through its board Chairman David Pistilli, to sum up its reaction to Northup’s punishment.
“This resolves a long-running issue for the organization, and we are pleased that the matter has been resolved,” the statement reads. “We thank the Middlebury Police Department and the office of the Addison County State’s Attorney for their efforts to bring this matter to a conclusion. We are also grateful to the public for their continuing support through this difficult time, and look forward to continuing to provide a much-needed service to the 10 towns we serve in Addison County. Our public can rest assured that MREMS takes its responsibilities to the community seriously and has implemented financial controls to minimize opportunities for abuse in the future, to include the outsourcing of our billing and bookkeeping functions to two separate institutions, as well as the commission of a full audit this winter by a third institution.
“We feel we have turned a corner with respect to financial management and look forward to putting this incident behind us.
“We would further like to thank the men and women of MREMS for their dedicated service, and know they look forward more than anyone to moving forward. We are grateful for their quiet professionalism during a demanding time.”
The state’s attorney’s office brought charges against Northup following an exhaustive investigation led by Middlebury Police Detective Kris Bowdish. Her investigation indicated, among other things, that:
•  Between Nov. 8, 2015, and Jan. 14, 2017, Northup “intentionally and secretly” purchased a combined total of $3,564 worth of items for personal use, using an Amazon account belonging to MREMS. Police allege Northup acquired the approximately 150 items through 53 transactions using an MREMS credit card.
•  Between Jan. 16-18, 2017, Northrup used the MREMS bank account to pay her personal Overstock.com bill, totaling $545.36.
•  Between Oct. 16, 2016, and Jan. 10, 2017, Northup paid two of her personal medical bills, totaling $1,022.33, using MREMS funds.
•  On March 28, 2016, Northup paid herself $2,670.99 from the MREMS bank account “when this money was not due her.”
Court documents indicate MREMS officials became aware of problems with the organization’s books back on Jan. 30, 2017, while ordering some new supplies.
On another note, MREMS is thanking its donors for what have been three successful years of fundraising that have yielded a new ambulance. The ambulance is among three that MREMS is able to put into service for the benefit of patients throughout its service area, which includes Middlebury, East Middlebury, Salisbury, New Haven, Ripton, Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting, Bridport, Cornwall and Weybridge.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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