April 16, 2010

Local man pleads not guilty to embezzlement

DANVERS, MA -- Brian Dalphonse, 41, of Goffstown, pleaded not guilty yesterday to embezzling more than $80,000 to purchase cars, a home theater system and other luxuries. 

Dalphonse, the former chief financial officer at St. John's Preparatory School, was indicted last month on four counts of felony larceny and three counts of making false entries into corporate books, charges that arose from an audit by the school. 

According to a statement of the case filed yesterday in Salem Superior Court, Dalphonse resigned his position at the school last fall and was awaiting a severance package.  A full audit was done by the school, which, prosecutors say, is customary when a CFO leaves a position. 

That audit turned up "many discrepancies." 

School officials discovered that over a two-year period, from 2006 to 2008, Dalphonse stole approximately $81,842 through a series of financial transactions, the statement said. 

Court papers say that in 2007 Dalphonse paid off the balance of his wife's car loan, a total of $31,629, by sending a St. John's Prep check to a company called AmeriCredit.  Dalphonse allegedly entered the payee for the check as "Ameritrade" and described the expense as being for van transportation. 

The following year, prosecutors say, Dalphonse used a check drawn on school funds to purchase a $33,671 vehicle for a co-worker at the school, Paula Avigian.  Avigian ran the school's bookstore, according to the school Web site. 

During that same two-year audit period, Dalphonse allegedly provided Avigian with a series of checks totaling $16,000.  One check, for $3,000, had been approved by the headmaster as a salary advance for Avigian, but the other payments were not approved by anyone. 

Avigian has not been charged in the case. 

Prosecutors also allege that Dalphonse used a school-issued Visa credit card for personal purchases, including a $2,150 home theater system, a $750 smart phone and upgrades to his own vehicle totaling $612. 

Prosecutors note that while Dalphonse had authority to manage the school's financial accounts and authorize payments, he needed the headmaster's permission to make large purchases, such as vehicles, or to give salary advances. 

Dalphonse, wearing a gray, double-breasted suit and burgundy shirt, said only the words "not guilty," a total of seven times, during his brief court appearance yesterday before Judge Timothy Feeley. 

His lawyer, William Christie, said outside the courtroom that Dalphonse "denies the allegations against him." 

A Middlesex County prosecutor is handling the case because a relative of Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett works for the school. The prosecutor turned over a copy of the audit to Christie yesterday as part of the exchange of evidence in the case. Christie said he wants to review the audit before he can comment on any possible defenses in the case. 

Dalphonse, who remains free on his own recognizance while the case is pending, agreed to a series of conditions yesterday, including that he sign a waiver of rendition, which would allow him to be brought back to Massachusetts without a hearing should he fail to appear for future court dates. 

Other conditions include an order that he stay away from St. John's Prep and any witnesses in the case, that he not travel outside New England without approval of his probation officer, and that he remain in weekly contact with the probation officer while the case is pending. 

Prosecutor Elisha Willis told the court that Dalphonse has been looking for a new job outside New England, which is why she sought the condition that he get permission to travel. 

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 13.

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