Police said that former Eighth Utilities District Fire Chief Paul Litrico's arrest earlier this week was not due to an accounting error, but a deliberate effort to mislead the town of Manchester in order to qualify himself, his wife and other members of the volunteer fire department for a $400 tax credit.
According to the application for a warrant for Litrico's arrest on file at Manchester Superior Court, compiled by Manchester Police Detective Andrew M. Young, the investigation began on July 3, 2012, when Eighth Utilities District President Mary O'Marra filed a theft complaint with police over missing paperwork pertaining to mutual aid calls and roster information of members of the Eighth Utilities District volunteer fire department.
In a sworn statement, O'Marra told police that the paperwork was "crucial to provide accurate documentation and statistics to the town of Manchester to show productivity, training, and response, to calls for service within the town and surrounding areas."
Eighth Utilities District firefighters are a volunteer based unit of fire fighters that respond to calls in the northern portion of Manchester and are also available for mutual aid calls in other parts of town. The volunteer firefighters are eligible to receive a tax break of up to $400 off their motor vehicle taxes each year, according to a town ordinance, but must response to at least 120 emergency calls, 25 of which have to be mutual aid calls.
The missing paperwork was used by the Eighth Utilities District to certify that members of the department met the mutual aid requirements to qualify for the tax abatement.
O'Marra told police that copies of the missing mutual aid paperwork were anonymously placed on the doorstep of John Topping, a member of the Eighth Utilities District's Board of Directors who also sits on the Manchester Board of Directors, in what she believed was an effort to expose to Topping that some of the members on a certified letter prepared by Litrico and forwarded to the town of Manchester varying their tax abatement eligibility was inaccurate. O'Marra told police that Topping returned the documents to the district, which returned them to the filing cabinet they had been kept in on June 18, 2012.
O'Marra told police that the matter was then brought up publicly at a meeting of the Eighth Utilities District Board of Directors that same evening, and Litrico was told to provide documents to prove the eligibility of the members he had certified to the town qualified for the abatement.
On June 26, 2012, O'Marra told police that Litrico came to her house and told her that the mutual aid paperwork from Winter Storm Alfred in October of 2011 was missing from the rest of the documents, and that because of that he could not certify the eligibility of all the members in the letter he sent to the town stating that they qualified for the tax abatement.
There were 17 names on that list, according to police, including Litrico and his wife Mary Beth Litrico, who was then an assistant chief for the fire department.
Manchester Director of Assessment and Collection John Rainaldi told Patch that $400 off car taxes is the maximum any volunteer firefighter can receive under the abatement, but that some don't reach that threshold based on the value of their car and its tax bill. Rainaldi said that both Paul and Mary Beth Litrico received the full $400 tax abatement.
According to the application for a warrant, based on the mutual aid call sheet from May 2011 through April 2012 used to calculate eligibility for the abatement, which was recorded and compiled by another member of the department and not Paul Litrico, only three of the 17 members in the certified letter Litrico sent to the town actually qualified for the abatement based on that information, and Litrico and his wife were not among them (nor was the man who recorded and compiled the data, Edwin Dezso, although he too appeared on the list).
"Given the clear discrepancy of mutual aid calls to those that were 'certified' by Litrico and those that actually met the minimum of 25 mutual aid calls, it is unreasonable to believe that this was an oversight on Litrico's part," Young wrote in his application for the warrant. "Therefore, it is evident that Litrico intentionally filed a false document to the town of Manchester for this tax relief program."
On July 16, the Eighth Utilities District Board of Directors voted not to reappoint Litrico as fire chief, and he was replaced by Ronald Russo. Russo then went about compiling roster data from the department over the same time period in an effort to get "a more accurate count" of Eighth District and mutual aid calls from that time, and found that a few roster forms from that time period had been misfiled or improperly coded in the district's computer system.
Russo revised the list, which included mutual aid calls from Winter Storm Alfred that were recovered in the district's computer system, and found that six members of the department actually qualified for the abatement, but that
Litrico or his wife were still not among them (Russo qualified under both lists).
Litrico declined to be interviewed by police during the investigation.
Paul Litrico, 48, turned himself into police headquarters on Monday and was charged with second-degree larceny - defrauding a public community and false entry by a public official. He is due to appear in Manchester Superior Court on the charges Jan. 8, 2013. This is his first arrest.
Rainaldi said that the town re-billed all of the members of the department who were inaccurately certified for the tax abatement in October, and that "most have paid" the money in taxes they owed to the town.