2007-07-03 / News

Szepatowski facing Bay State fraud charges

By Tom Shevlin

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court last week for fraud stemming from charges that she and her company, SAI Surveying Corp. failed to pay over $63,000 in employee compensation and state corporate taxes for work conducted in Massachusetts.

Szepatowski, who was elected in 2005 as the town's lone Republican council member, turned herself in to state police at the Jamestown Police Station last Wednesday after learning that a warrant for her arrest had been issued by Massachusetts authorities.

According to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, Szepatowski is accused of failing to pay an employee $3,142.11 and for allegedly not paying $60,544.96 in state unemployment insurance taxes.

However Szepatowski's lawyer, former Jamestown council president Guy Settipane, dismissed the latter charge as an error on the commonwealth's part regarding how long SAI, which no longer operates in Massachusetts, conducted business in the state.

According to records obtained through the Secretary of State's office, SAI Corp. filed to conduct business in Massachusetts in November 2001 however was listed as inactive by November 2003.

Council President David Long voiced his support for Szepatowski and said that in no way would the arrest hinder the council's business or the manner in which councilors interact with one another.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser expressed similar sentiments. "Other than to say that this is a private matter for her to resolve… I don't see it having an affect on the council's business."

Szepatowski, who is well known for her work on behalf of the island's animal population and her former store on Narragansett Avenue, Paws and Claws, has also been an established environmental engineer specializing in land use planning, construction layout, and land surveying.

It was only last Wednesday that Szepatowski, her lawyers, and town officials learned of the charges even though the councilwoman had been scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 24. It was after missing that appearance that a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Szepatowski pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $3,142.11 bail - the same amount claimed to be owed to the employee. She is next due in court Aug. 8 for a pre-trial conference.

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