Embezzlement earns 5-15 years in prison for bookkeeper

A bookkeeper was given the maximum sentence last week in Essex County Court for stealing close to $718,000 from his longtime employer.

Lawrence R. Jaques, 64, of Keene, was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison and was required to pay back the money he stole. Jaques pleaded guilty in June to one count of grand larceny in the second degree, admitting he stole close to $718,000 from his employer, Torrance Construction in the town of North Elba, where he worked as a bookkeeper for 12 years.

Jaques would cut himself checks and would also order products through the mail at the company’s expense. He stole over a period of 10 years. Some of Jaques’ property has been liquidated to pay restitution, which he has not fully paid.

Warren County District Attorney Kathleen Hogan was the special prosecutor on the case. She pushed for the maximum sentence.

“This is an employee who was in a position of trust who breached that trust on a daily basis and stole in excess of $717,000 from his employer,” Hogan said. “He was relentless in his thievery.”

Hogan said Jaques stole literally thousands of times. One example of this was when Jaques wrote himself an additional check for $8,000 during Christmas. He had also received a Christmas bonus at around that same time.

Jaques stole $45,121 in 2006, $58,670 in 2007, $71,570 in 2008, $85,725 in 2009, $59,665 in 2010, $79,894 in 2011, $66,896 in 2012 and $250,278 in items purchased through Torrance Construction business accounts.

Hogan said the owner of Torrance Construction, Peter Torrance, spoke at the hearing about the betrayal he felt.

“The employer rightly pointed out that (Jaques) had so many opportunities to stop what he was doing,” Hogan said.

The stealing was revealed in 2012 through an Internal Revenue Service audit and reported to the company. State police arrested Jaques a short time after.

Jaques was represented by Ron Briggs of the Lake Placid-based law firm Briggs Norfolk LLP. Briggs said Jaques admitted his full wrongdoing and cooperated with the investigation. Briggs said his client was previously a model citizen who never broke the law before.

“This is an aberration to a life of public service,” Briggs said

Jaques had served as a councilman on the town of Keene board and volunteered in his community, Briggs said. Jaques was on the town board from 2003 to 2011.

Briggs asked the judge for leniency in sentencing: time served, which was two years in jail prior to sentencing, and post-release supervision. The judge, Richard Meyer, rejected the defense’s recommendation, instead sentencing Jaques to the maximum.

“Given his age and how many earning years he has left in his life, it would make more sense to have time served,” Briggs said. “So he could get out and gain employment so that he can start making restitution.”

Many people in Keene did not want to talk to the Enterprise about Jaques. Some in Keene said they knew him well and it was too personal to talk about. Others said he got what he deserved.

Jason Sharp, owner the Adirondack Rustic Furniture Gallery in Keene, said he did not know Jaques personally but had been following the case.

“I took interest in the story because I’m an accountant and a CPA (certified public accountant),” Sharp said. “The worst thing that someone can do is not look at cash going out. From what I understand, he had complete check writing ability. You’re allowed to write the check but should never be able to sign them.”