BRATTLEBORO -- This week, a federal jury convicted a former fire district treasurer of embezzling more than $80,000.
On Thursday, 51-year-old Sherry Roebuck of Guilford was found guilty of stealing money from the Algiers Fire District No. 1 between November 2007 when she was hired as treasurer and her arrest in March 2011.
After the two-day trial, Judge J. Garvan Murtha granted that Roebuck would remain released on conditions pending her sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples told the Reformer on Friday that although Roebuck is facing up to two decades in prison, her actual time to be served will most likely be far less.
"She’s probably looking at between two to three years behind bars under the guidelines," Waples said. "The presumptive range is more realistic than the statutory maximum.
The fire district, which was established in 1993 and served roughly 90 residences in Guilford, was nearly bankrupted by Roebuck as she wrote numerous checks to herself totaling roughly $84,000 and cashed them at local banks.
Prior to being hired as the treasurer, Roebuck served as the assistant town clerk in Guilford.
When Roebuck took the stand, she admitted to the jury that she wrote all the checks to herself, some of which were for legitimate expenses but the others were for Herb Meyer, who served as the co-chairman of the fire district’s prudential committee.
When asked if Meyer’s alleged involvement could have any truth to it, Waples said, "The federal government doesn’t believe there is any credible evidence to suggest Herb Meyer was involved in any embezzlement from the fire district at all. I told the jury during final arguments that this was simply a last minute diversion."
Meyer who serves as the current fire district’s treasurer, told the Reformer he was angry when he heard what Roebuck had told the jury and that her false claims just further proved her lack of remorse.
Meyer said his title of treasurer is only as a "figurehead and watchdog" as the town of Guilford serves as the financial administrator.
Just before Roebuck’s arrest, Meyer said he believed the situation had escalated in early 2011 and that delinquent payments were causing difficulties for the district.
"How could anybody do this to their neighbor? If she had said, ‘I’m not making enough and I’m having a hard time,’ we would have given her more money. It would have been cheaper for us in the long run," Meyer said.
For the last quarter of 2010, bills showed that only 16 ratepayers had sent in checks, Meyer said.
When the committee began investigating the source of its financial woes, Roebuck told them she couldn’t handle the responsibility anymore and quit on March 15.
"She said, ‘I’m too busy, I can’t do this, I’ll resign,’" Meyer said. "When she walked out, we opened up her computer, which was really our computer, and all the balances were zero ... there were no check stubs."
Although the fire district owns the sewer system in the village of Algiers, it contracts services through Brattleboro’s water and sewer line.
About a month before Roebuck’s resignation and arrest, the financial difficulties at the Algiers Fire District No. 1 had reached a point where the prudential committee contacted Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag and told her about the situation, fearful that the town of Brattleboro may start charging late fees.
Eventually the fire district was able to get back on its feet financially through the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which reimbursed some of the money stolen by Roebuck.
Meyer said the VLCT, which acts as an insurance policy for municipalities, paid back roughly $80,000 to the fire district.
When Meyer heard what Roebuck’s penalty could be, he agreed with the terms.
"It’s pretty stiff but given the circumstances and that embezzlement has been rampant in the state for a while, it seems appropriate," he said. "It seems just."
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.