Joanne Pascarelli Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department
Bruce Gluck Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department
Marie Wilson Photo Credit: New Canaan Police Department

How Did Lunch Money 'Disappear' In New Canaan For 15 Years? Defense Lawyers Hire Forensic Team

Lawyers for two lunch ladies from Fairfield County insisted the numbers never added up and that there was more to the story about the theft of nearly half a million in cafeteria receipts.

A new forensic team began looking over the books in the New Canaan School District, leading to the arrest of a third suspect who now lives in Vermont.

Joanne Pascarelli, 61, of Stratford and her sister, Marie Wilson, 67, of Wilton were charged with stealing $478,588 between 2012 and 2017, according to police. 

Although there were discrepancies in the books dating back 15 years, the cafeteria workers were charged over a five-year period -- which is the statute of limitations for the filing of felony crimes that carry a punishment of imprisonment for more than one year. For misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is one year. (Murder and Class A felonies have no statute of limitations.)

Both sisters are free on $50,000 bail apiece after pleading not guilty to charges of theft and defrauding a public community.

On April 29, a former New Canaan Schools food service director became the latest arrested in connection with the lunchroom embezzlement scheme.

Bruce Gluck, 61, of Middletown Springs, Vermont, was arrested by New Canaan Police for allegedly stealing funds from the Saxe Middle School cafeteria and the New Canaan High School cafeteria, according to police.

Lt. Jason Ferraro said detectives from the New Canaan Police Department Investigation section embarked on a lengthy and involved investigation into the complaints reported at both schools.

Investigators monitored both cafeteria operations and interviewed multiple cafeteria workers over the course of several months that included and an extensive examination of financial records, Ferraro said.

Ferraro said that Gluck became another suspect as their investigation expanded and found that he allegedly made large cash deposits during the same time period.

"The overwhelming majority of these deposits were made during the school year and tapered off markedly when school was not in session," police said. "Continuing the established pattern, upon Gluck’s retirement, daily money intake totals increased dramatically."

The investigation showed that Gluck conspired with Pascarelli and Wilson to steal town money, Ferraro said.

Gluck was charged with larceny by defrauding the public, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny and tampering with physical evidence

Darnell Crosland, a Stamford attorney defending Pascarelli, said, 'The case is continued in discovery stage."

A forensic team is looking over discrepancies, according to Crosland.

Calls to the State Attorney in Stamford were not returned.

Crosland told Daily Voice that the forensic examination is only relevant to the five years that they were charged with theft. Crosland's client, and Wilson, who is represented by attorney Mark Sherman, were due to appear in state Superior Court in late April.

Crosland previously said Pascarelli had “zero control of any of the revenue” and the "school’s loss was a result of systemic negligence.”

"Pascarelli gave 30 years of her life to the schools and never missed a day," Crosland said. "This is a negligence case and we want the charges dropped, dismissed."

In their arrest warrants issued in August 2018, police allege that thefts could have been ongoing for 15 or more years. But police reportedly were advised to limit the investigation to five years due to the statute of limitations.

The investigation began in December 2017 when the New Canaan Board of Education filed a complaint with police regarding financial discrepancies in the handling of cash at the middle and high school cafeterias.

Wilson had been employed as the assistant food director at New Canaan High School. Pascarelli oversaw the food services program at Saxe Middle School. 

Pascarelli and Wilson were placed on administrative leave in late 2017 and resigned around the time the school board began looking into the possible theft of money.

One of the charges brought against Pascarelli involves a discrepancy in average daily deposits made at Saxe Middle School in time frames before and after her resignation. The average daily deposit from the 2013 to 2016 fiscal years ranged from $18- to $33-a -day. After a new software installation in the summer of 2016 that documented cash intake, daily deposits reportedly rose to an average of $93-a-day for the 2017 school year. Still, that only accounts for $10,800 to $13,500 in one year.

According to an affidavit, Pascarelli told police during a March 2018 interview that she didn’t know how such a discrepancy could be explained and that she would “never take money."

According to earlier media reports, Sherman, Wilson's attorney, said, "There is much more to this story. Marie is innocent and did not personally divert a single nickel of town money for personal gain. . . .She is not going to be scapegoated for the missing money."

Gluck was held on $50,000 bond and transported to Norwalk Superior Court. He was later released on a $25,000 surety bond.