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Lunch lady sisters accused of stealing nearly $500,000

Joanne Pascarelli and her sister Marie Wilson are being accused of stealing nearly a half-million dollars from New Canaan, Conn., schools.
Joanne Pascarelli and sister Marie Wilson who had stolen Cafeteria money.
Former cafeteria workers Joanne Pascarelli, left and her sister Marie Wilson, right, charged with stealing nearly a half-million dollars from New Canaan, Conn., schools over the last five years. AP / AP

Two former lunch ladies allegedly stole nearly $500,000 from a middle and high school in Connecticut, police said.

Sisters Joanne Pascarelli, 61, and Marie Wilson, 67, surrendered over the weekend after warrants were issued for their arrests, the New Canaan Police Department announced on Monday.

The sisters have been charged with larceny and defrauding a public community for allegedly stealing $478,588 from Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School from 2012 through 2017. They were released on $50,000 bond and are due to appear in court later this month.

When the neighboring schools noticed financial inconsistencies with the handling of cash at the two cafeterias, the New Canaan Board of Education filed a complaint with the New Canaan Police Investigative Section.

The investigation, which took months, included interviews with multiple cafeteria workers, examining financial records and monitoring both cafeteria operations.

Investigators instituted a point-of-sale system, which identifies the time a sale took place, the amount of money and type of bill in the register. With such an order in place and Wilson and Pascarelli's departure from the schools, the BOE noticed a substantial increase in daily cash deposits.

Police say it's possible that the theft of funds could've occurred before 2012, but a statute of limitations prevents them from examining prior years.

In a statement to the community, Superintendent, Bryan D. Luizzi said “We are deeply upset by this alleged violation of our trust and the trust of the entire community, and are committed to continuing our full cooperation with the New Canaan Police Department regarding these allegations.”

Wilson's lawyer, Mark Sherman, was unavailable to comment, according to Christine Bartlett, a paralegal at his firm.

Will Hennessy, a graduate from both schools, said he was “surprised and confused as to how it happened.

“Cafeteria food was a la carte, so once you checked out, they’d charge you for whatever you picked,” he said. “The food quality and variety was impressive, I had no idea any of this was going on.”