Chelmsford Nonprofit Criticizes Light Sentence for Worker Who Embezzled
CHELMSFORD -- “Amy Young stole far more from LifeLinks than just money.”
That’s the main sentiment conveyed in the victim impact statement the organization provided to Middlesex Superior Court in the criminal case against its former employee that concluded Wednesday.
Young, of Lowell, pleaded guilty to larceny over $250 in connection with embezzling more than $136,000 from the organization from November 2011 through 2016 in a case prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s Office. Young was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered that she not be employed in a fiduciary or financial capacity during that term.
“We believe that the sentence imposed on Wednesday did not reflect the gravity of her actions, nor was it reflective of the impact that her actions had on LifeLinks,” CEO Jean Phelps said in an emailed statement Friday. “We are however grateful that this (criminal) matter is closed.”
A civil suit against Young is ongoing. It remains unresolved despite a default judgment earlier this year that Young owes LifeLinks $288,139, the full amount Young is believed to have stolen over the 10 years she worked at the disability services nonprofit, plus interest.
According to an excerpt of LifeLinks’ victim impact statement provided to The Sun, the organization suffered in many ways due to Young’s actions.
“She stole part of our good name; by tarnishing our reputation which had been built by and with families beginning in 1954 and had never been sullied until this episode,” the statement reads.
“She stole the trust and goodwill of our families,” it continued. “Some families no longer believe that we can meet their needs. There are also a few who believed that Amy denied them access to goods and services so she could take them for herself instead.”
The statement went on to say that certain key staff members left because they “felt betrayed” and their trust was broken by what Young did and a feeling that LifeLinks did not do enough to punish her. Through her actions, Young damaged the organization’s relationships with families, the state and the community at large, the statement said.
“As we have learned, fraudulent activity casts a long shadow and colors all parts of our work now,” the statement reads.
Working to understand and recover from this episode has robbed the organization of time and productivity, according to the statement. Its people have been “wounded by the brazenness of her actions, dismayed by her callous indifference and angered by the scope of the thefts,” the statement said.
“The bonds of honesty and and integrity that tie us together in the work we do to support some of the most fragile people in our community were frayed and almost unraveled completely because of the actions of one person,” the statement read. “We came perilously close to losing all our business because of Amy Young’s selfish and self-serving actions.”
Young was hired at LifeLinks as a unit case manager in April 2006, and promoted to director of family supports in June 2013. In that role, she was responsible for managing and distributed through state Department of Developmental Services contracts for such client services as skill and literacy training programs, physical therapy, respite care, home equipment and modifications, events and recreation.
According to the AG’s Office, Young used her position for personal and family gain, forging documents to obtain checks her employer thought were for legitimate purposes to serve clients. LifeLinks’ Finance Department uncovered the scheme in July 2016 upon requesting backup documentation on an already approved $2,200 check and $440 charge on Young’s LifeLinks Visa card that were used to fund a sorority reunion party at a local bowling alley instead of client events later found to be fabricated.
“On behalf of all of us who make up the organization of LifeLinks, I can only hope that the money she stole from us and the outcomes that followed for LifeLinks results in consequences as near perilous for Amy Young as they were for us,” the excerpt of the victim impact statement closes.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.