Trial date is set over embezzling from swim club

AMHERST – A local woman accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from Jasper Valley Swim and Tennis Club over the course of nearly a decade will go on trial in the spring.

The civil case, Jasper Valley Swim and Tennis Club Inc. v. Rebecca McGuire, is scheduled for May 26 in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester. The trial date was set last month, according to court documents.

Jasper Valley’s lawsuit alleges that McGuire, of 30 The Flume, Amherst, embezzled at least $311,501 while serving as the club’s treasurer between 1998 and 2007.

The club is seeking damages, including interest and attorney’s fees, according to its attorney, Brian Cullen, of Nashua. The lawsuit was filed last November.

Cullen said McGuire has filed a legal document denying Jasper Valley’s claims. McGuire’s attorney, Rodkey Craighead, of Manchester, could not be reached for comment.

Despite the alleged theft, Cullen said, the club is in strong financial shape and has overhauled its accounting practices to prevent such problems in the future.

For example, Jasper Valley board President Matt Redd said the club now uses an accounting software called QuickBooks that allows the entire board access to financial information.

“The strength of its membership has helped it to overcome the financial crisis that it faced last year,” wrote Cullen in an e-mail. “Not only have the prior debts been resolved, the members were able to enjoy the pool, with its lifeguards, swim lanes, and child- and adult-friendly swimming throughout the summer, and even managed to resurface some of the tennis courts.”

According to the lawsuit, Jasper Valley supports itself through membership dues and an on-site snack bar. Jasper Valley has about 180 family memberships. It relies on a small group of members to assume posts as directors and officers.

The lawsuit alleges that McGuire transferred money to herself in three different ways.

First, she wrote checks from Jasper Valley’s accounts payable directly to people to whom Jasper Valley did not owe money. Second, she transferred money from Jasper Valley’s accounts through checks issued to cash. Third, she transferred money through “debit memos, by which cash could be withdrawn and banker’s checks issued,” according to court papers.

McGuire allegedly wrote checks to herself and to cash often exceeding $20,000 a year, according to court documents.

“By 2003, the defendant had become more brazen still, writing checks directly from JVST accounts to her mortgage and credit card companies,” the club alleges in the lawsuit.

In an example of the first method, the lawsuit states that several checks for nearly $1,000 each were paid to Washington Mutual. While Jasper Valley doesn’t do business with Washington Mutual, the bank holds the mortgage on McGuire’s property.

The Flume is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Amherst. McGuire’s home, a 3,694-square-foot, two-story colonial on 5.8 acres, is valued at $689,300, according to town assessing records. McGuire and her husband also own a home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts assessed at $1,036,900, according to the assessors online database for Edgartown, Mass., which was last updated in April.

The case grew out of the discovery a year ago by Jasper Valley board members that the club had accumulated $45,000 of debt and was arrears on its property taxes, employee wages, insurance premiums and utilities, among other things.

Redd said when he learned of these problems, he turned them over to Amherst police, who discovered even more thefts. Redd said the criminal investigation – which Police Chief Peter Lyon said is still pending – compiled 10 years of records in an organized way, which has helped their civil case.

While Cullen said it often takes a year for civil cases to go to trial, this case was also delayed because McGuire did not initially hire an attorney. However, she now has counsel.