Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 11-20-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | NOVEMBER 20-26, 2019 NORTH PROVIDENCE 15 nies stemming from her time in the district. With Morisseau, Cote is painting the picture of someone who never seemed to take the investigation into her actions seriously, and who was often uncooperative in failing to explain herself. Cote first became aware of the situ- ation through media reports last sum- mer, when the School Department placed Morisseau on leave and com- menced an internal investigation into the superintendent's spending. During that time, a number of personal charges were flagged on Morisseau's school department credit card, which included airline tickets and a trip to the Water's Edge Spa & Resort in Conn. A report on the former superin- tendent's spending was completed by CPA Robert Civetti and turned over to the North Providence Police Department, where it landed on the desk of Cote. The detective said he began his investigation with a series of inter- views, calling on school business department employees such as then- Finance Director John McNamee and Controller Mary Read. McNamee told the detective that "the change in credit card behavior happened pretty much right away" after Morisseau was hired. Cote said he didn't seek out Morisseau early on for an interview, looking to find out as much as he could from sources close to the situa- tion prior to interviewing her. "Along with the state police finan- cial crimes detective, we looked at the case, read articles preceding the audit report, and determined who we want- ed to talk to. At that point, we were looking for them to tell their side of the story in the most chronological way they could," he said. Once the facts of the case were laid out before them, it was determined Morisseau would be charged with two felonies. The first was embezzle- ment and fraudulent conversion, as Morisseau inappropriately spent money entrusted to her by virtue of her employment. "That's what we saw looking at the results of the audit," Cote said. "We saw charges to the spa, a $1,000 catering bill, numerous charges to Amazon, hairdos being done." The second charge, which was dis- missed by the state in a plea deal, was obtaining property under false pre- tenses. Cote said Morisseau had been reimbursed early for certain job perks such as paid vacation and a $500 sti- pend for personal charges. Before Morisseau's spending became a criminal investigation, Cote said members of the School Business Department attempted "on numerous occasions to go over the credit card business and square away what was personal and what wasn't. (Morisseau) was given ample opportunities to make this right." He added that, "she didn't, at any point, even after having been asked numerous times over a period of months. It seemed like avoidance … like she was pushing it down the road. It was an annoyance to her." Though the inappropriate spend- ing, coupled with Morisseau's lack of receipts backing up certain purchases, were flagged early on, Cote said Morisseau seemed unfazed by the line of questioning related to the spending. "She'd tell them, 'we'll get to it, don't worry about it.' But it was never paid back regardless of how many times she was asked. She didn't look at it like it wasn't her money to spend," he said. Early in the investigation, Morisseau told members of the School Committee that the personal charges were accidental, and that she inadvertently used the incorrect credit card. "We wanted to know how that could have happened," Cote said. He determined that the School Department's green and gray Citizen's Bank card could not have been mistaken with Morisseau's per- sonal Bank of America card. "We didn't find any easy mistakes she could have made. That's part of what builds the case: the probable cause," he said. Some of the charges were arguably for the School Department, such as lunchtime meetings at local eateries, as one example. "Those ones can't be proven crimi- nally," Cote said. On the other hand, there were the obvious personal charges of airline tickets for Morisseau and her hus- band, the trip to Water's Edge resort, and a hotel stay at the Marriott in Lincoln. In that instance, Morisseau called the hotel nine minutes before arriving to check in and booked a room by phone with her personal card. "When she got there, the clerk knew her by name and said, 'Oh, Bridget, I haven't seen you in a while," Cote said. "The clerk remem- bers the card being switched. The room was booked with a personal card, but paid for with the school card." In March, a warrant was issued for Morisseau's arrest based on the findings of the investigation. She flew from Texas, where she has been living, to North Providence to turn herself in. "When I told her I was at this stage in the investigation, she agreed to turn herself in," Cote said. At that time, he sat down with Morisseau and attempted to interview her. "It was a brief conversation. She didn't really provide information," Cote said. "I asked her to elaborate on the circumstances of her life at that point. I wanted to understand why this was done. She did have quite a few difficulties in her life at that point, but when I asked her to elaborate, she didn't." Cote said Morisseau,"very kindly told me she appreciated that I was treating her with respect, but didn't feel speaking to me would help at that point." The attorneys representing Morisseau and the state agreed that Morisseau would plead to the first charge if the second was dropped. In court two weeks ago, Morisseau pleaded no contest, a confession of guilty in Rhode Island, to the embez- zlement charge and was sentenced to serve three years of probation and ordered to pay back $9,434 in restitu- tion to the town. Asked whether he's satisfied with the results, Cote said he's "content." "This is the first case where I've investigated a person holding a public office, in effect, the CEO of that office, but I didn't look at it any differently from any other case," he said. "The facts are the facts, the truth will be the truth regardless of name or position." Cote said he's satisfied about taxpayers being reimbursed nearly $10,000. Asked whether he expected a harsher punishment, he said it's not typical for someone to serve jail time on the first offense. As the case comes to a close, Cote said he hopes it serves as a lesson in accountability. "Any time you're investigating a case like this, you're not happy that it exists in the first place, because it means preventative, accountability and restorative measures have failed," he said. "In my mind, it should be so com- mon to want to do the right thing, especially when you're in a position with so much public trust, making a pretty decent salary," he added. "To take it a step further, frankly, it makes them look spoiled and greedy." MORISSEAU From Page One NORTH SMITHFIELD – A Slatersville woman says she never imagined being the type to fall for an elaborate phone scam, but that's just what happened to her when she let someone take $500 from her this month. The woman, who asked not to be named, is warning others to avoid a similar downfall this holiday season. People should be especially careful about strange calls from such com- panies as iTunes, Google, Apple, Amazon and MoneyPak, she said. As the woman tells it, she got a call supposedly from Apple telling her that someone was trying to use her account to buy something in Japan and Germany. She was told to click on a supposed Apple support icon on her screen, which she did. She didn't realize someone had hacked her com- puter and changed the icon. Three hours later, the woman was in deep with a claimed technician who told her the only way she could stop what was happening was to go buy a $500 gift card at Target. She did that, buying the gift card on her credit card, and read the numbers to the person over the phone. "Like an idiot, I did it," she said. "They're masters at it." She soon learned that her gift card had no money left on it, and repre- sentatives from Target told her there was nothing they could do. The phone number she had used was no longer in service. The victim reported the scam to the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General, but is out the $500 and knows she will never see that money again. She said it's important not to accept any calls that are even remotely suspi- cious, adding that if your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. Reputable companies and agencies are not making these types of calls, she said. Also something to keep in mind is to never take gift cards from the front of a card pack, said the woman. Scammers are often waiting for those particular numbers to come up so they can steal the money. Report a scam to the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General at 401-274-4400. Local woman warns of gift card scam By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Managing Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com Amos House seeks volunteers PROVIDENCE – Amos House, a leading social services agency in Providence, is looking for volunteers to serve as a tax preparer or greeter. Founded by Sister Eileen Murphy in 1976, Amos House prepares free tax returns for income-qualifed indi- viduals and families from the last week of January through mid-April. Participants will receive IRS train- ing and certification. If interested or for more information, call Mike Speidel at 617-645-1584. In your time of need, The North Providence Breeze will print your loved one's full obituary for a small charge. The paper also places the obituary on our Web site, valleybreeze.com, as soon as it is provided to us by your family's funeral director. Notification to friends and neighbors is also made weekdays on WOON-AM radio announcements. Should you desire our services, kindly inform your funeral director. The full charge is $90, or $125 for lengthy obituaries, in the edition of your choice. You may place the obituary in any of our other editions for $50 each. Thank you. OBITUARIES 3rd Generation Family Owned and Operated Geoffrey Greene ~ LfD Jennifer Greene faGan ~ LfD 2251 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence, RI 231-9307 • www.robbinsfuneralhome.com St. Jude Novena May the sacred heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world now and forever. Sacred heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, helper of the helpless, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day. By the 8th day, your prayer will be answered. This prayer has never been known to fail and publication must be promised. S.V.

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