Ex-director jailed for theft from Londonderry nursery school
BRENTWOOD – A former director at a church nursery school in Londonderry was chided by a judge and sentenced to 60 days in county jail for stealing from her former employer, but her lawyer also got an earful for misunderstanding that there was no backing out of the judge’s sentence.
Lisa Wallace, 42, of Woburn, Mass., pleaded guilty to theft by unauthorized taking on Thursday for stealing $2,124 – a portion of $16,671 she allegedly embezzled from to St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Londonderry.
She still faces charges in two Massachusetts courts for allegedly misusing the ATM card in Woburn and Malden, Mass., between September 2008 and June 2012.
Wallace used an ATM card owned by the church to pay for hair salon, groceries and other personal expenses.
County prosecutors initially indicted the mother of three for stealing all $16,000 in misspent funds but could only go forward with a portion of the money spent in New Hampshire after her lawyers argued the duplicate charges amounted to double jeopardy.
Assistant county attorney Terri Harrington argued that Wallace violated her position of trust with the church and even continued to use the card for 10 days after she left the job until church leaders canceled the card.
“From the state’s perspective, it was pure selfishness,” Harrington said. “People lost their jobs because of her selfishness.”
She said the Diocese of Manchester officials were disappointed that all $16,000 could not be recovered through restitution in the New Hampshire case.
Defense lawyer Sandra Bloomenthal argued that Wallace should serve no jail time, saying she fell on hard times, paying $13,000 for her husband’s medical bills that forced a short sale of their home.
“It happened because of the economy and her situation,” Bloomenthal said of the thefts.
Judge N. William Delker rejected the defense’s argument saying that Wallace, who used the ATM for regular hair appointments and to buy groceries, only wanted to maintain a type of lifestyle without having to make sacrifices after suffering from financial woes.
“That is not what we as a society can tolerate,” Delker said.
Delker said he struggled with imposing only a 60-day sentence negotiated by the lawyers because he considered it too light a punishment. Every week, Delker said, he sees people in court who lose their jobs and suffer from home foreclosures but do not resort to theft to shore up their finances.
But once Wallace was taken into custody, he blasted Bloomenthal, who approached the judge’s bench and asked to “appeal” the plea deal, which is not allowed in New Hampshire courts. Delker refused to allow Wallace to withdraw her plea agreement and chastised Bloomenthal for mistakenly thinking that Wallace could withdraw from it.
“Having that much of a fundamental misunderstanding, you should not be practicing criminal law,” Delker told her.