Comptroller: Potsdam court clerk embezzled $117,000

POTSDAM – The former court clerk in the town of Potsdam was arrested for embezzling $117,000 after an audit found she manipulated court accounting records and pocketed cash receipts, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

The comptroller’s office shared its findings with the state police and St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain’s office. In February, the former clerk, Mary Jo Guyette, was charged by the DA with one count of grand larceny in the second degree, a class C felony, and one count of falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony.

“On the surface, the court’s records appeared to have been well kept and the books looked as if they were balanced,” DiNapoli said. “But our auditors uncovered deleted and altered records for hundreds of vehicle and traffic fines that were paid but never deposited.”

Auditors found that from May 2009 through May 2013, Guyette recorded 830 receipts totaling $115,045, but the funds were not on the town’s printed cashbook reports, reported to the state Justice Court Fund or remitted to the town supervisor. Auditors say Guyette altered receipt dates to avoid detection.

Auditors found a separate cash shortage of $2,075.

Town officials suspended Guyette during the audit period and have taken steps to improve oversight of town court finances, according to the comptroller’s office.