On March 1st, two Harvard Law School employees, Meg DeMarco (33) and Darris Saylors (32), will be arraigned in Cambridge District Court on criminal embezzlement charges. The administrators are accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an account the school set up for law school students with disabilities.
Harvard Law is one of the most prominent and respected law schools in the world. The hallowed halls of the institution are the alma mater to such prestigious attorneys as; former President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, Mitt Romney, Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia just to name a few. However, prestige does not make the school immune from controversy and criminal activity.
In a newly released criminal complaint, Harvard police allege that two employees (Meg DeMarco and Darris Saylors) who worked in the Dean of Students office used funds earmarked for Harvard Law students with disabilities. The money was to be used for the purchase of items such as tools for the hearing impaired or items which helped the blind students read their textbooks. Instead, police say the employees used the funds to purchase expensive laptops, iPads, DVDs, jewelry, and even sex toys. The complaint alleges the women stole about $110,00.00.
The ongoing embezzlement was first noticed by a newly hired budget manager in November 2013. According to LawNewz, the manager then launched a probe to trace the money to its source. The investigation found that purchased items were delivered to DeMarco’s home in Chelsa and Saylors’ apartment in Cambridge. A subpoena sent to Apple even discovered items sent to Saylors’ friends and families homes in several different states. According to CBS Boston DeMarco used a mobile card reader to deposit school money directly into her banking account. Meanwhile, Saylors is accused of frequenting Amazon and ordering hundreds of items. When the revelation was discovered, DeMarco and Saylors resigned from their positions at the Dean of Students office while a lengthy police investigation took place. DeMarco works at Babson College, and Saylors moved out of state.
Embezzlement occurs when someone who is entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the taker’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.
In Massachusetts, embezzlement is punished according to the value or type of the property stolen, with the possibility of increased penalties for second and subsequent convictions. (266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. § 30.)
- Money or property worth $250 or less. For a first offense, penalties include a fine of between $50 and $600, between six months in jail and two and a half years in prison, or both. For second and subsequent offenses, penalties include a fine of between $150 and $600, between 18 months and two and a half years in prison, or both.
- $250 or more, or firearms (regardless of value). Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
- Trade secrets (regardless of value). Penalties include either up to five years in prison or a fine of $25,000 and two years in prison.
Elizabeth Vlock, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office, told the Harvard Crimson that DeMarco and Saylors have both been charged with two counts of larceny over $250.
Saylors also was charged with “two counts of false entry into corporate books, uttering a false writing and forgery of a document in connection with an alleged theft,” according to Vlock.
In a statement released to the press, Harvard Law School spokeswoman Michelle Deakin said that the school will beef up security. “As a result of this matter, the Law School implemented additional layers of controls governing the use of its credit accounts and purchasing protocols,” Deakin wrote.
Finally, Elsie Tellier is involved with the Harvard College Disability Alliance, a group that advocates for student accommodations. Tellier, a sophomore with cystic fibrosis, said funds allocated for those purposes are essential. Tellier stated; “Without it, we couldn’t be students. Hearing this is just outrageous and extremely upsetting. I really hope this is a wake-up call for Harvard to take better account of where the money is going.”
If you are entrusting someone else to manage your business or personal funds, always do a periodic audit, preferably unannounced. Sometimes, even friends and family can’t resist temptation. Take steps to trust, but verify at all times. And it never hurts to have an attorney draft up agreements for employees who are handling funds on your company’s behalf.