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Investigators say sheriff's employee from Malden working in real estate while on paid sick leave responded to phony e-mails

Posted by Jarret Bencks  November 26, 2012 03:30 PM

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A sheriff’s office employee accused of working as a real estate agent while on sick leave went so far as to answer emails sent to her about a property she was showing, according to an investigator’s affidavit.

Joyce Drinkwater, 67, of Malden was charged last week with knowingly presenting a fraudulent claim to a public employer after taking months of paid sick leave and benefits from her job in the sheriff's payroll department while allegedly continuing to work part time for a Melrose-based real estate agency.

Drinkwater was last paid a commission on Nov. 3, 2011 for her work as a real estate agent, according to the affidavit. She had been out on sick leave from her job in the sheriff's office since June, according to the affidavit, filed in Malden District Court.

The investigation into Drinkwater began on Oct. 3, when the sheriff's office learned she was possibly practicing real estate while on sick leave and that she had an online profile with Century 21 Sexton and Donohue of Melrose, the affidavit said.

A sheriff's deputy contacted Drinkwater through the website using an undercover name, e-mail and phone number, according to the affidavit. They exchanged a series of e-mails, and Drinkwater eventually arranged showings of two homes, one in Wakefield on Nov. 9 and another in Melrose Nov. 13, the affidavit said.

Drinkwater described her philosophy as a real estate agent in one e-mail.

"Always remember that Karma never forgets your address," she wrote in the e-mail. "Money is great but should not be the first in line."

Sheriff's deputies searched the Century 21 Sexton and Donohue offices Nov. 14, discovering Drinkwater's real estate license hanging on the wall, and invoices showing she was paid $2,014.80 on Nov. 8, the affidavit said.

In an interview with investigators Nov. 14, Drinkwater allegedly admitted she received income for practicing real estate. Bill Donohue, co-owner of the agency, told investigators he knew Drinkwater also worked at the sheriff's office but was unaware that she had been on sick leave.

Drinkwater first took medical leave in June, then applied for extended sick leave in September, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney's office. She is expected to be arraigned Dec. 13.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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