Former Lowell Schools Clerk Pleads Guilty to Larceny
WOBURN — A former clerk for the Lowell Public Schools avoided jailtime as she pleaded guilty this week to larceny and forgery charges and admitted she stole over $54,000 from the district.
Karen Brekalis, 48, of Tewksbury, was ordered to pay full restitution of $54,927 to the schools as she was sentenced by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
She pleaded guilty to larceny over $250 by a single scheme, forgery of a check and uttering a false check.
Fishman sentenced her to two years probation, and ordered her not to leave the state.
Brekalis originally plead not guilty when she first appeared in court back in March. She was accused of taking $54,900 from a student activity fund over an 11 month period.
According to Assistant District Attorney Doug Cannon, Brekalis was first employed as a fiance clerk for Lowell Public Schools back in 2015. She then assumed responsibility of the student activity fund for the kindergarten through eighth grade classes in 2017 after her supervisor left.
Brekalis allegedly wrote 72 checks to herself from the activity fund account between November 2017 and July 2018. She allegedly covered her tracks by changing the PIN number to the account to delay the discovery of her thefts. Brekalis was also accused of forging the signature of former Chief Financial Officer Gary Frisch on the checks.
Billie Jo Turner, assistant superintendent of finance and operations for the schools, told the prosecution that the district’s new system discovered the missing money.
Brekalis wrote an email acknowledging and apologizing for the theft prior to being charged, but estimated she only stole about $40,000 — about $15,000 less than it was later determined she actually stole.
Lowell Mayor William Samaras said on Friday afternoon that he was “sorry to hear” that the theft happened and was “pleased” to hear Brekalis plead guilty.
“I’m anxious to see the restitution going back into the student activity fund and I hope the people responsible for it follow through,” Samaras said. “I’ve seen things in the past when a promise of restitution wasn’t followed through on. I hope that the new CFO ensures someone doesn’t have their own access to the account again. This was a wake up call that was needed to be made.”
Paul King, Brekalis’s attorney, did not return requests for comment.