SSA bookkeeper accused of theft
Falmouth police arrested Steamship Authority bookkeeper Armine Sabatini, 45, of Mashpee, on Monday for allegedly embezzling more than $80,000, although the final amount could be much higher. "The embezzlement of funds is estimated at $80,000 and may be over $100,000," a press statement from the police said.
Ms. Sabatini was arraigned in Falmouth District Court Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to felony charges of larceny over $250 by a single scheme and larceny over $250. Shee was released on personal recognizance and is due back in court on December 1 for a pretrial hearing.
Wayne Lamson, Steam-ship Authority General Manager, told The Times that the thievery took place over a long period of time, starting as early as 2001, and perhaps earlier. "We are still trying to track down any activity prior to that date," he said. The theft was discovered and Falmouth Police contacted on September 25.
Mr. Lamson said SSA members were stunned to learn that a long-time employee was under investigation.
"It's unfortunate," Mr. Lamson said.
The SSA sent a letter to Ms. Sabatini Tuesday last week terminating her employment after 20 years for the specific reason of refusing to answer questions regarding her job activities, Mr. Lamson said. "It was about her activities that were under investigation," he said, "and as her employer we have a right to question this employee."
Mr. Lamson said no customers were short-changed or affected, to the SSA's knowledge. He said he could not discuss the details of the scheme.
Ms. Sabatini, who was in charge of processing credit card transactions, is alleged to have issued refunds to credit cards from eight different banks taken out in her name, her maiden name and her husband's name, according to a published report in the Cape Cod Times. Her husband, Richard Sabatini, has been questioned but not charged with any crime, according to the report.
The Cape Cod Times reported that Ms. Sabatini owns a four-bedroom Cape-style house with an assessed value of $321,000, and took out a $15,000 second mortgage on the property in 2006 and a $192,500 mortgage in 2004.
The SSA administrative offices are located on the second floor of the Woods Hole terminal. It is a small office and Ms. Sabatini was one of about 15 employees who work there.
Mr. Lamson, the boatline's former treasurer, was well acquainted with her. He said it was shocking to learn that a trusted employee with an important position was involved in a theft over such a long period of time.
Mr. Lamson said the SSA is audited annually by an outside firm and there was nothing that raised a red flag. He declined to describe how the theft was discovered, but he said that Ms. Sabitini was linked to a number of questionable transactions.
Police statements provided to the court revealed that on September 23, Mary Claffey, SSA director of information technology, noticed a refund for $3,600 issued to a credit card with no previous sale that was later determined to belong to Ms. Sabatini, according to the Cape Cod Times.
Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, said that he and other members of the board were very disappointed to learn that a long-time employee was accused of embezzling funds. "I know that the people at the Authority are really upset about it just because they worked so closely with this person for so long," he said. "It is truly unfortunate."