Former state employee denies stealing $70K from Vt. taxpayers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Former state employee denies stealing $70K from Vt. taxpayers

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Lisa Peduzzi Lisa Peduzzi
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Lisa Peduzzi spent Easter weekend behind bars. The 51-year-old former claims examiner for the state of Vermont is accused of stealing big bucks from taxpayers and covering her tracks with phony insurance claims.

"Miss Peduzzi has never been in trouble before. She has no criminal record. This is the first time she's ever been arrested," said Stacie Johnson, Peduzzi's lawyer.

The Plainfield woman pleaded not guilty to five counts of embezzlement by a public official and one count of attempted embezzlement.

"The investigation is really just beginning," said Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General.

The Vermont attorney general's office is prosecuting Peduzzi's case. Authorities say her alleged fraud scheme fell apart when a whistleblower from Michigan alerted Vermont authorities that she tried to buy his $6,000 guitar online with a state of Vermont check.

"There's no doubt that we wouldn't be where we are today but for him going the extra mile and checking to see if these was legitimate," Sorrell said.

Police audited Peduzzi's work for the past year and say they've found 19 bogus payouts so far. And she's worked for the Office of Risk Management since 2006.

Investigators say the lifelong Vermonter targeted unsuspecting, out-of-state, online retailers, creating bogus insurance claims in their names about vehicle damage from potholes or bridges. She then used the payouts to purchase big ticket items like more than a dozen guns, guitars, an engagement ring, a bird incubator, car repairs, a car and a boat. She even paid her property taxes:

  • 13 guns = $16,783
  • 5 guitars = $23,371
  • Engagement ring = $4,225
  • Bird incubator = $657
  • Car repairs = $640
  • Car = $4,900
  • Boat = $11,000
  • Property taxes = $5,666

"This woman was able, without checks and balances, to authorize and see that state checks for under $15,000 were cut just on her say so. Well that's a flawed system," Sorrell said.

Peduzzi resigned when confronted with the allegations. Her lawyer says she was then hospitalized for her mental health. Prosecutors wanted Peduzzi held on $10,000 bail.

"She's no longer employed. The affidavit indicates she has some financial difficulty. She does appear to own a home but it's facing foreclosure," Vt. Assistant Attorney General David Tartter said.

Judge Michael Kupersmith disagreed and released the former state employee on bond.

According to court papers, Peduzzi told police she deserves whatever she gets and that she will pay back the state, even if it takes until she is 90.

If convicted, Peduzzi faces up to six decades behind bars. But will she do prison time?

"If we put this person in a jail cell," Sorrell said, "then do we have to release someone else to the street who perhaps is a greater threat to public health and safety?"

Sorrell says case is likely to stay in state court -rather than transitioning to federal system. Peduzzi is due back in court next month.

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