Former Winchester Official Pleads Guilty, 11-Year Sentence On Theft Charges

Hartford Courant

The former Winchester director of finance who was accused of stealing more than $2 million from the town pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of first-degree larceny as part of a plea deal that will send him to prison for 11 years.
    Henry Centrella Jr., 58, of 198 Gilbert Ave. in Winsted, was arrested in August 2013 after being fired from his position with the town in January.
    The plea agreement between Centrella and the state includes a recommended sentence of 20 years in prison, suspended after 11 years, said Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack. Centrella will also be required to pay restitution and forfeit any claims to his pension as part of the agreement, Shepack said.
    Centrella's attorneys were not immediately available for comment Friday after the proceedings at Superior Court in Litchfield.
    The criminal investigation into Centrella began after a 2012 audit showed discrepancies in the town's finances. With the help of a forensic accounting firm, police combed through financial records from January 2008 through November 2012. More than $2 million was unaccounted for, according to state police.
    The investigation found that Centrella withdrew money from town accounts to supply "change" to various town departments and kept the money for himself.
    Court documents also show that Centrella told the Internal Revenue Service that he had paid more withholding taxes than he actually had by filing fraudulent joint tax returns with his wife, Gregg E. Centrella, and keeping the refunds. That scheme began at least in 1995 and continued until he was put on administrative leave and led to $184,514.87 in proceeds.
    But the most lucrative scheme by far was simply keeping cash that town residents paid to the tax collector from 2008 to 2012 -- ranging from $256,389 in 2012 to more than $544,000 in 2010, according to court documents.
    Centrella allegedly used some of the stolen money to gamble at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, where he was known as a high roller. State police said that Centrella also kept a mistress in Florida from 2008 to 2012.

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