Two sisters are accused of stealing nearly $500,000 over a 5-year-period from school cafeterias in wealthy New Canaan, Connecticut, where they worked as lunch ladies

By KC Baker
August 14, 2018 01:42 PM
Joanne Pascarelli and Marie WilsonCredit: New Canaan Police Department
Credit: New Canaan Police Department

Two sisters are accused of stealing nearly $500,000 from school cafeterias in the wealthy Connecticut town where they worked as lunch ladies, PEOPLE confirms.

Marie Wilson, 67, of Wilton, and Joanne Pascarelli, 61, of Stratford, were arrested over the weekend and charged with larceny and defrauding a public community for allegedly stealing a combined $478,588 from cafeterias at Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School from 2012 to 2017, according to arrest warrants obtained by PEOPLE.

Authorities allege the sisters may have been stealing from the cafeterias for 15 years, but police were advised by the district attorney to restrict their investigation to five years because of the statute of limitations, according to the warrants.

Wilson, who had been the assistant food director at the high school, turned herself in on a warrant to New Canaan police on Saturday, according to a police press release. Her sister, who was in charge of the middle school food program, turned herself in on a warrant the following day.

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Pascarelli and Wilson were both released on a $50,000 bond over the weekend. Wilson is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 21; Pascarelli is scheduled for Aug. 24.

Wilson’s attorney Mark Sherman said in a statement to PEOPLE, “There is much more to this story. Marie is innocent and did not personally divert a single nickel of town money for personal gain. She is not going to be scapegoated for this missing money.”

An assistant for Mark Carta, Pascarelli’s attorney, said the attorney would not comment.

The sisters’ alleged plot began to unravel on Dec. 21, 2017, when the New Canaan Board of Education filed a complaint with police after discovering “financial discrepancies” with the handling of cash at the Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School cafeterias, according to the police press release.

The board launched an internal investigation based on a complaint from a cafeteria worker alleging the two women were stealing from the cafeterias, the warrant states.

The women both resigned in September, and subsequently, “there was a substantial increase in the daily cash deposits” at both schools, the warrant states.

Detectives spent months monitoring cafeteria operations and interviewing cafeteria workers. One person who worked under Pascarelli alleged she “realized something wasn’t right” but said “she was told not to talk or she would be punished,” the warrant states.

Wilson, whose job included counting cash at the end of the day at the high school cafeteria, allegedly stole about $350,000, her arrest warrant states.

Pascarelli would allegedly “come to the cash registers and remove the large bills” in between lunch periods, according to her arrest warrant. The middle school lost more than $127,000, her arrest warrant states.

Cashiers told detectives that “they were made to sign blank deposit slips” after Pascarelli collected “unknown” amounts of money from their registers, the warrant alleges.

Cashiers who did not follow Pascarelli’s rules allegedly “could be punished by washing dishes for months at a time or longer,” the warrant states.

When told that daily revenues increased by $80 to $100 a day after she resigned, Pascarelli said she “couldn’t see how that was possible” and denied taking money, the warrant states.

When a detective told her, “Look, you’re caught,” she said the cashiers were “lying.”