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Great Barrington recoups funds allegedly embezzled from town coffers by worker

Great Barrington Town Hall

Great Barrington's insurer has paid it about $167,000 allegedly stolen by an employee and now is suing the worker accused of the theft.

GREAT BARRINGTON — The town’s insurer has paid it about $167,000 allegedly stolen by an employee and now is suing the worker accused of the theft.

Town officials last month said that insurance also will cover the cost of the town’s investigation and legal fees into what authorities say was long-term embezzlement from Town Hall after officials had made a claim under its surety bonds. The town will have recouped about $200,000.

Former assistant treasurer/collector Deborah Ball, 64, continues to face trial in Berkshire Superior Court for allegedly pocketing money she diverted from taxpayer accounts. That criminal trial is on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic backlog.

A routine audit in 2018 revealed discrepancies between what Ball collected from property tax payments and the amount she posted to taxpayer accounts. Investigators with town police and the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office say the theft had been going on since 2012 and affected the accounts of 92 residents.

The town had sued Ball to recoup the money, but now the insurer has taken over that lawsuit, said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski.

Pruhenski said the town will work to rectify the accounts of residents whose real estate taxes were diverted.

“Town taxpayers were not on the hook for any legal fees or financial auditing costs, or for the missing funds,” he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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