Former president of Community Voice Channel charged with first degree larceny

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Bolton - posted Thu., Jan. 31, 2013

The former board president of the Community Voice Channel, Deborah Hilton, who is being held responsible for nearly $380,000 of missing funds from CVC, is having her file for bankruptcy contested by the law firm retained by CVC to sue her.

CVC's suspicion of Hilton began in late November to early December of 2011, when a board member of CVC received a complaint from a staff member that their payroll check had bounced. An investigation ensued and by January 2012, the board determined that the only person who seemed to have access to missing funds was Hilton. The board suspended Hilton and retained the services of attorney Hal Cummings, of Cummings, Lanza & Purnhagen, LLC, in the beginning of February last year.

“I met with the board, and recommended we retain the services of Mr. Steve Pedneault, of Forensic Accounting Services,” said Cummings. Pedneault performed a forensic audit of CVC's books and records. Based on his preliminary reports, Cummings and the board decided to contact State Attorney for Tolland County Matthew Gedansky, who assigned a state police detective, Sean Velazquez, to investigate the allegations.

When Pedneault completed his investigation, he reported to the board that he could not account for at least $378,593 of CVC funds. Because it appeared that the funds were withdrawn by Hilton or used for purposes outside of CVC, he recommended that further investigation be done.

Based on the report, Cummings' law office filed a civil suit against Hilton, in which CVC sued her for the missing funds.

At this time, Hilton filed for bankruptcy. “Under our bankruptcy law, you can seek bankruptcy protection for negligent stuff or accidents, like if you run a red light and hit somebody, so they're suing me, you can often get a discharge for that,” said Cummings. “But bankruptcy does not allow for discharge for willful acts like theft, or assault, where you intentionally do harm.”

Cummings' law firm then filed an objection to her bankruptcy claim. “That is still pending in bankruptcy court,” said Cummings. A trial in bankruptcy court is scheduled for May.

Around this time, Velazquez completed his investigation, which was reviewed by Gedansky. It resulted in an arrest warrant being issued for Hilton for larceny in the first degree: a class B felony. Hilton was arrested in December.

“That case is now pending,” said Cummings. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 22. If it goes to trial, it would begin several months after the pretrial, due to a backlog in the Tolland County court.

“Because Hilton managed the funds and arranged that all bills be sent to her, the result was, anytime a board member made any kind of inquiry, she made all sorts of assurances that everything is okay and that it was just a hiccup,” said Cummings. “It happens. You have someone you trust, you have every confidence in them, you're not likely to start second-guessing them, especially as questions seemed to get resolved as things went along.”

“To say that this has been upsetting to the board is to say the least,” said Cummings.

Calls to Hilton's attorney were not returned.

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