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Former Malden employee pleads guilty in embezzlement scheme

Posted by Marcia Dick  March 4, 2010 10:33 AM

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A former employee of the City of Malden received a two-year jail sentence after pleading guilty in connection with the embezzlement of more than $518,000 in city property tax receipts, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone announced on Wednesday.

Georgetown resident Gia Marie DeSantis, 27, who used to work in the city treasury, also received five years of probation and was ordered to pay $468,000 in restitution. She pleaded guilty to charges of  larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny at a sentencing before Middlesex Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey.

 “Gia DeSantis abused her position of trust and stole nearly a half a million dollars from the City of Malden,” Leone said on Wednesday. “She operated a complex financial scheme for well over a year to enrich herself and, today, by pleading guilty, she is admitting responsibility for her actions and will begin the process of repaying the City of Malden for the funds she egregiously stole.”

Authorities alleged that beginning in 2006, DeSantis, who oversaw property tax refunds, orchestrated a scheme in which she would arrange for Malden city checks to be issued to people who were not entitled to the refunds. Those people then cashed the checks and returned the bulk of the proceeds to DeSantis, authorities said.

DeSantis was arrested in November, 2008 after an investigation into her handling of the tax refund program by State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney's office. The investigation began after Malden officials reported suspected irregularities in the distribution of payments from the fund.

Immediately before her arrest, DeSantis was observed providing Alan Vincent Valdes, 32, of Malden with one of the false checks, authorities said. Valdes entered a Malden bank, cashed the check, and returned to a car in which DeSantis was waiting. After placing both parties under arrest, State Police recovered approximately $3,500 obtained through the cashing of the check, reports state.

DeSantis and Valdes were arraigned in Malden District Court following their arrest and ordered held on $2,500 cash bail. DeSantis was indicted last April and arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court last May on one count of larceny over $250 and a separate count of conspiracy to commit larceny.  She was released on personal recognizance by a Middlesex Superior Court Clerk Magistrate.

DeSantis's lawyer, Robert A. George, said after her November arraignment that she had been battling a "terrible, and life-threatening, substance abuse problem."

Further investigation following the arrests revealed that the eight other defendants - none of whom were Malden employees - also received and cashed checks in connection with the scheme. In some instances, the defendants recruited others to cash Malden checks, officials stated. According to the investigation, as many as 125 checks were issued during the course of the scheme, which operated from May 2007 to November 13, 2008, in amounts ranging from $2,000 to over $6,000.  Those indicted cashed multiple checks. The other defendants previously pled guilty.

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