PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) — A former assistant treasurer/tax collector for the Town of Great Barrington was arraigned in Berkshire County Superior Court Wednesday for stealing more than $100,000 in town funds.
Deborah A. Ball, 63, of Great Barrington, was charged with embezzlement by a municipal officer and larceny over $1,200 by single scheme. The Berkshire County District Attorney obtained an indictment from a grand jury on July 31 charging Ball with committing the felonies over three years and possibly longer.
Town officials first flagged the illegal acts in a 2018 financial audit performed by the independent firm Scanlon and Associates. Detectives with the Berkshire State Police Unit attached to the DA’s Office led a criminal investigation into the matter with assistance from the Great Barrington Police Department.
“As public officials, we have a responsibility to represent our communities and keep their best interests in mind, but Ms. Ball failed in that critical duty,” Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said. “In bringing these charges, we are holding Ms. Ball accountable for betraying the trust that the community placed in her.”
Evidence showed Ball stole in excess of $100,000 through a fraudulent “Ponzi” scheme committed in the Tax Collector’s Office. Auditors determined Ball embezzled real estate and excise taxes that residents and business owners paid in cash to the Town and tried to cover up the losses by applying portions of check payments made by other taxpayers.
Work on the final audit report continues.
Ball worked for the Town of Great Barrington for nearly 35 years. The Town placed her on paid administrative leave on Feb. 21, and she was separated from employment on March 15.
Great Barrington Town Manager Mark A. Pruhenski said, “The Town of Great Barrington will continue to work closely with our auditors and state and local authorities until this matter is resolved. The Town has implemented proper controls to prevent this type of incident from happening again in the future. Regarding the current incident, the Town is bonded and insured for losses such as this.”