Sharon Scanlon, former Shelton assistant finance director, pleaded no contest to forgery and larceny charges in state Superior court in Milford on Oct. 24.
With Attorney William Dow III at her side, Scanlon agreed to the plea bargain in front of Judge John Ronan. She was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city of Shelton while serving in her municipal position.
Scanlon will be sentenced to 15 years in jail to be suspended after seven years, with a minimum of three years in jail. Once released from jail, she will be on probation for five years.
This means she should serve between three and seven years behind bars.
She will be sentenced on Jan. 16, and Dow will be able to argue for a sentence on the lighter side of those perimeters.
“We will ask for the most lenient sentence possible from the court,” Dow said. He said Scanlon is from “a good family” and is “a nice woman.”
“People in life fall into these situations,” Dow said of Scanlon’s legal problems.
Dow also said Scanlon “had acknowledged responsibility” and “made substantial efforts at restitution.”
When asked why Scanlon stole the municipal funds, Dow politely responded, “That’s an interesting question,” and did not elaborate.
State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor, who handled the case in court today, said he has “faith the judge will give the appropriate sentence within those guidelines.”
In court, Lawlor said the law enforcement investigation found that Scanlon was stealing roughly $100,000 a year from city coffers. As assistant finance director, she “wrongly appropriated [funds] to herself,” according to Lawlor.
Plea deal involves two counts
Scanlon originally was accused of stealing $914,000 in city money over a decade. She was charged with 56 counts of first-degree forgery and one degree of first-degree larceny, all felonies.
She pleaded no contest to one count of both first-degree forgery and first-degree larceny. “No contest” means a suspect neither admits or disputes his or her guilt, but is basically treated in criminal court as being similar to a guilty plea.
Her plea covers the theft of about $478,000 from 2008 to 2012, due to the five-year statute of limitations.
Under the plea deal, the other 55 counts of first-degree forgery will be dropped.
Without the plea arrangement, being found guilty on the two felony charges could have brought a sentence of up to 30 years, Ronan said.
When accepting the plea deal reached between Dow and his legal team and prosecutors, the judge said he does “find factual basis” for the agreement.
Scanlon, a 49-year-old Shelton resident, worked for the city of Shelton for 17 years.
‘Where’s the accountability?’
After the plea deal was accepted, former Shelton mayoral candidate Chris Jones questioned how someone could have stolen so much money from City Hall without it being noticed by other city officials and the city’s auditors.
“What do you say?” said Jones, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti in 2009 and 2011. “Where’s the checks and balances? Where’s the accountability? How long did this take place?”
Jones, who is running for Third Ward alderman in this year’s election, attended the Scanlon court hearing. He said he wants to know more about what went wrong.
Scanlon was appointed to her position in city government by Lauretti, who has been mayor since late 1991.
Resigned her position in 2012
Scanlon resigned her city position in August 2012 after the city alleged she had stolen funds. She turned herself in to State Police on Jan. 23. Her bond was $100,000.
State Police have said that Scanlon “drafted fraudulent checks from the Shelton City Hall and deposited those fraudulent checks into her personal checking account via ATM at selected locations, over a 10-year period.” Investigators allege that money was stolen until July 2012.
Lawlor, the state’s attorney, said he is pleased with how the criminal investigation was handled. “I think it’s a credit to the State Police,” he said. “They did a tremendous investigation, along with the earlier investigation by the Shelton Police Department and the [city] administration.”
The city is seeking restitution by filing a lawsuit against Scanlon and placing a lien against her Crescent Drive home.