Ex-state worker charged with stealing $75K
By JOSH O’GORMAN
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | April 19,2014
MONTPELIER — A state employee is facing embezzlement charges after investigators say she issued state checks to purchase luxury items and pay her property taxes.
Lisa Peduzzi, 51, of Plainfield, was arrested Friday afternoon and is facing 19 counts of embezzling nearly $75,000 in her capacity as a claims examiner for the state’s Office of Risk Management, said Gov. Shumlin at a news conference shortly after Peduzzi’s arrest.
“As governor, there is nothing more disappointing or infuriating to me than a state employee who takes advantage of their public trust and steals taxpayer money,” Shumlin said.
“This is a disappointment to me and it’s a disappointment to the over 7,000 employees who work for the state every day and who are honest and hardworking,” he said.
As a claims examiner, Peduzzi’s job duties included issuing payment checks for claims against the state. Peduzzi had the authority to issue checks in amounts up to $15,000 without oversight.
In what he called a “fairly sophisticated deception,” Shumlin said Peduzzi would create a false claim for damage done to a person’s vehicle while driving on the state’s highways and issue a check in the name of a person from whom Peduzzi later purchased items.
Keith Flynn, commissioner for the state Department of Public Safety, said Peduzzi’s alleged behavior came to light after she purchased a guitar from a man in Michigan through the online auction website eBay and tried to pay for the item with a check issued from the state in the seller’s name.
Police began investigating Peduzzi March 31, days before her resignation April 2.
Flynn said Peduzzi also purchased a boat, automobiles and jewelry, and used a state-issued check to pay her property taxes to the town of Plainfield.
Peduzzi began working for the state in September 2006. So far, investigators have gone back to 2013 and allegedly found 19 counts of embezzlement, although Shumlin said Peduzzi’s alleged malfeasance might go back as far as 2009.
Investigators are asking anyone who purchased items from or sold items to Peduzzi to come forward. Investigators declined to speculate on Peduzzi’s alleged motivation.
Police arrested Peduzzi at her Plainfield residence and subsequently executed a search warrant at the home to look for property purchased with state checks. She was taken to Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington and held on $10,000 bail.
Despite the crime of embezzlement having a six-year statute of limitations, Shumlin said investigators will go all the way back to Peduzzi’s first day on the job more than seven years ago.
Shumlin said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding will work with State Auditor Douglas Hoffer to look at internal controls in place to prevent embezzlement and determine what improvements could be made.
Shumlin said the Office of Risk Management was the only state office in which an employee could issue such sizable checks without oversight, a practice that has been stopped. Checks of any amount now require a second person to review the payment, he said.
This marks the second time in two years that a state employee has been accused of financial malfeasance. In 2013, former state police Sgt. James Deeghan pleaded guilty to collecting $120,000 by falsifying his time sheets.
Peduzzi is being held at the South Burlington prison on $10,000 bail and is expected to be arraigned Monday, possibly in Barre criminal court, investigators said. The case is being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office.