Judge calls Pat Paad's alleged crimes 'brazen'
May 04, 2011 - ROCHESTER HILLS – 52-3 District Court Judge Lisa Asadoorian had nothing but stern words for Marion Patricia Paad, the suspended Oxford Village deputy clerk facing multiple criminal charges for allegedly embezzling property tax payments and police department funds.
"Miss Paad, on her own, without authority, without justification and without anyone's knowledge for at least a while, took the residents' money – money that they . . . pay to be able to stay in their home – and used it so that she could keep a roof over her own head," said Asadoorian during the April 29 preliminary examination. "She also ripped off the police."
Calling Paad's alleged actions "brazen" and "illegal," Asadoorian bound her over to Oakland County Circuit Court on five counts of embezzlement by a public official over $50.
"The prosecutor has more than proven by a probable cause standard that in the time frames in question, the defendant has committed the crimes of embezzlement over $50 at least five times over," Asadoorian said. "As a result, this court has zero issue with binding these matters over as charged."
Each of the five counts is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Paad remains free on a $5,000 personal bond.
Paad is charged with embezzling property tax money paid in cash by village residents Susan Bossardet, Salvatore Feliccia and Donn Barber back in 2006.
According to village records, Bossardet's July 2006 tax bill was $1,349; Barber's was $1,401; and Feliccia's was $577.
When the allegedly embezzled tax funds were repaid in 2007 to allegedly conceal what had happened, each bill had accrued penalties and interest, which amounted to an additional $81 for Bossardet, $98 for Barber and $40 for Feliccia.
Paad is also charged with embezzling $308 cash in drug forfeiture funds and $275 cash in Preliminary Breath Test fee money from the village police department in December 2010.
Although she hasn't been formally charged with any crimes beyond the aforementioned five felonies, there are other village tax monies currently missing that Paad could end up paying restitution for if convicted of any of the current charges and if the village can provide the necessary documentation showing the funds were embezzled.
According to an internal investigation performed by retired village Clerk Rose Bejma, who's been doing some part-time accounting work for the village, regarding the July 2010 village tax bill, there's $4,217 in cash payments and $16,272 in check payments unaccounted for.
The village is still in the process of trying to determine if this money was deposited somewhere in its 38 bank accounts and if so, which ones, or if it was stolen.
When Bejma sent out delinquent tax notices in January of this year, she testified during the preliminary exam that "right off the get-go, there were five people that said they had paid in cash, (but the payments) were not recorded."
The July 2010 property tax bills of four village residents Michael Rider ($423.95), David Frost ($388.37), Brent Ludwig ($774.36) and Richard Drogosch ($1,115.10) were presented in court as examples of taxpayers who had paid in cash last summer, but received delinquent notices because the payments had not been posted.
"I won't comment on residents Rider, Frost, Ludwig and Drogosch, although certainly the information about their accounts was alarming as well to this court," Asadoorian noted.
In one instance, Bejma testified village resident Wilkie Collins paid his July 2010 tax bill with a $723 check and the check was cashed. However, the check was used as a substitute for cash payments made on utility bills, not to pay the resident's tax bill.
"The taxpayer's taxes were not marked paid," she said.
All but $24 of the utility cash was missing, Bejma said.
Although the approximately $20,500 missing from the July 2010 village tax bills is more recent, most of the testimony during the preliminary examination focused on the alleged embezzlement of Bossardet, Barber and Feliccia's tax payments from 2006 because that's what Paad's been charged with.
The main testimony was given by village Councilman Maureen Helmuth, who informed the municipality of Paad's alleged embezzlement in late January of this year.
It was Helmuth who discovered Paad's alleged embezzlement back in 2006-07. At the time, Helmuth was the village's deputy treasurer. She testified that she noticed problems with the property tax and water bills back then.
"A lot of people were coming in and saying that they had paid, but their payment hadn't been posted," Helmuth said.
When asked how many she meant by "a lot," Helmuth replied, "A handful every month" for "maybe four or five months" in 2006.
When Helmuth checked Paad's desk, she found some water bill and tax receipts.
"Would have it been unusual to have tax receipts and water receipts on her desk?" asked Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Jason Pernick
"Without money? Yes," Helmuth replied.
Helmuth testified that she checked and these receipts weren't posted as paid in the computer system, yet they were stamped or marked as paid in cash.
Helmuth kept copies of some of the tax bills including those belonging to Bossardet and Barber. These copies were later turned over to the Michigan State Police during its investigation of Paad and used as exhibits in court last week.
Helmuth testified that she found the tax bills in January 2007, discovered the payments had not been posted, then approached Paad and inquired as to the whereabouts of the cash.
"She kept the money because her home (was) being foreclosed (on) and she needed to pay the mortgage company," Helmuth said. "I don't know if your home's ever been foreclosed (on), but you have to have all the money; they don't take partial payments. She was trying to get all the money together, so she could pay her mortgage company."
Helmuth admitted she did not report Paad's alleged embezzlement to the village because "Pat was a friend of mine."
She admitted she loaned Paad approximately $7,500 of her own money. A court exhibit indicated the amount of the loan may have been as high as $7,900.
"My father had passed away a year before that, so I had some money in my checking account and then I had some savings bonds I cashed in," Helmuth said. "I gave (Paad) some of the cash and then I covered these tax bills . . . I put the money for these (bills) in the village bank account."
Helmuth also admitted to covering some water bills for which Paad had allegedly stolen the payments, but she couldn't remember a dollar amount.
The councilwoman kept quiet about Paad's alleged embezzlement for four years until late January of this year when she first told Bejma, then reported it to village Manager Joe Young the next day.
"The village was in the process of hiring a new clerk. Pat had applied for that job," Helmuth said. "I was concerned about her being responsible for the funds. I just decided I had to tell someone."
Paad's defense attorney, Denis J. McCarthy, tried to paint a different picture. He asked Helmuth if it was true that "the real sequence of events" was that Paad indicated she was going to lose her house and "that you instructed her to take the village money to pay the bank?"
"No," replied Helmuth.
McCarthy then asked if it was true "that village money was commonly borrowed by employees?"
"Yes, if you wanted to go to lunch, you might take $20 out of the drawer (and) write a check for $20 (to cover it)," Helmuth said.
When asked by Pernick if any of those checks ever bounced, Helmuth said, "I'm sure they did," but she indicated she always paid the money back.
Helmuth said sometimes they might leave an IOU or a note in the village cash drawer, if you didn't "have your checkbook in your hand."
Bejma later testified that the practice of taking cash from the village drawer and replacing it with either a check or IOU is "no longer allowable."
McCarthy asked Helmuth, "is it true that at one point you had an IOU in the (village) coffers for approximately $785?"
"It's possible," Helmuth replied.
The prosecutor also asked Helmuth if she put in an IOU for that amount.
"I might have," Helmuth replied.
"What were the circumstances surrounding that?" the prosecutor asked.
"I don't know," Helmuth said.
"Did you ever pay the money back?" the prosecutor asked.
"Yes," Helmuth said.
McCarthy asked Helmuth if she understood that she's accusing Paad of "basically the same behavior" that she took part in and his client is now accused of five felonies?
"I guess they're not the same in my mind," Helmuth said.
"Taking money from the coffers to pay your mortgage is different than taking money from the coffers to pay for lunch?" McCarthy asked.
"In my mind, it wasn't taking money, it was . . . they were going in and out," Helmuth said.
In his closing, McCarthy requested that if Paad was going to face criminal charges, the judge should order charges against Helmuth as well because she knew about his client's alleged embezzlements and helped to conceal them.
"Mrs. Helmuth has indicated that she was complicit in what my client is charged with. She waved her Fifth Amendment rights and testified in that regard," he said. "She should be charged with essentially the same crime. Certainly, there's evidence of a conspiracy, if the court wants to look at it that way.
Asadoorian did not agree.
"I will not order that she be charged in this case," the judge said. "That's outside of my authority. It would be abusing my job and frankly, I have heard quite enough this morning about someone that acted outside their authority and abused their job."
The judge noted that Helmuth "took the stand and gave unflattering and incriminating testimony about herself, but while it was unflattering and incriminating, the court found it to be blunt and credible."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.