Former accountant allegedly stole from three towns, including Monterey
A former Monterey town accountant has been indicted by a statewide grand jury for allegedly stealing more than $729,000 from three communities — including $24,597 from Monterey.
Justin Cole, 38, of Harvard, also allegedly stole from the towns of Uxbridge and Millville, according to the office of Attorney General Maura Healey. He will be arraigned at a later date in Berkshire and Worcester Superior Courts.
Authorities say Cole stole money over a five-year period ending in 2017 by submitting and approving dozens of false invoices, and used his company, Bay State Municipal Accounting Group, to fraudulently obtain rent, software and equipment payments from the town of Uxbridge.
His siphoning of money from Monterey was discovered "many months ago" by an auditor, according to Monterey Select Board Chairman Donald Coburn.
"We immediately wrote him a letter and said we want our money back," Coburn said. "Within a week or so he returned the money, plus interest."
Town officials Tuesday could not recall what years Cole did the town's books.
Cole stepped down as Uxbridge's full-time town accountant in July 2017, but he allegedly continued to defraud other municipalities through his business, which provided accounting and financial services to Monterey and Millville, according to Healey's office. He allegedly stole $657,334.78 from Uxbridge and $47,600 from Millville.
The News Service reported in October 2019 that Cole's company had notified Ashburnham, Hadley, Hatfield, Millville, Monterey and Warwick that it was ceasing its services with those communities by Dec. 31. At the time, Cole said he was dealing with health issues and closing his firm.
"It was a difficult decision to move in this direction, but I have been struggling with some health issues for a while now, and it would be disingenuous for us to provide anything less than the best possible service to our client municipalities," Cole wrote in an email at the time.
Mary Jane Handy, a member of the state Municipal Finance Oversight Board, told board members at the time that the company was "overextended." The state Division of Local Services did not respond to inquiries about the situation at the time, and Auditor Suzanne Bump, who chairs the municipal finance board, declined to comment.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.