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Former Great Barrington Official Arrainged On Embezzlement, Larceny Charges

Two white women speak while sitting on a bench in a courtroom
Ben Garver
The Berkshire Eagle
Attorney Judith Knight confers with defendant Deborah Ball in Berkshire Superior Court

A longtime Great Barrington, Massachusetts public servant was arrainged in Berkshire Superior Court today. Prosecutors allege she stole over $100,000 from the town.

Deborah Ball, 63, worked for the town of Great Barrington as an assistant treasurer and tax collector for almost 35 years before her firing this past March after an audit by independent firm Scanlon and Associates revealed the theft.

“The audit is still in progress," said Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington. Her office obtained the indictment against Ball on July 31st from a grand jury.

“It was a pretty extensive audit that was conducted by a professional accounting firm," continued Harrington. "They are alleging at this point that the amount is over $100,000, but there could potentially be additional amounts that are discovered.”

Ball is believed to have worked alone on what Harrington’s office described as a Ponzi scheme involving real estate and excise taxes paid in cash to the town by residents and business owners. She allegedly attempted to cover up the losses using other townspeoples’ check payments. The audit has uncovered theft going as far back as 2012.

“It’s going to probably take some time to even determine the extent of who the victims are,” said the DA.

Harrington suggested that her office had more than enough to pursue a case against Ball.

“I don’t know that it’s really necessary to continue the search in terms of the criminal prosecution," she told reporters. "We feel that we have the facts and the circumstances that we need to make a compelling case that was presented to the grand jury.”

The official charges the defendant faces are embezzlement by a municipal officer and larceny over $1,200 by single scheme.

“She used her position with the town as a tax collector and violated her fiducial duties and violated the public trust, which is why we take this case very seriously, and we have done an extensive investigation," said Harrington. "I want to thank the Great Barrington Police Department and detectives from the State Police detective unit assigned to my office who have worked very diligently in investigating this case and discovering the facts of a fairly complicated scheme to defraud the town of Great Barrington and the taxpayers.”

In a statement, Great Barrington town manager Mark Pruhenski said the town was working closely with both auditors and authorities on the investigation, and that it is bonded and insured for these kinds of losses.

“The Town has implemented proper controls to prevent this type of incident from happening again in the future,” said Pruhenski.

Ball, who pleaded not guilty, is represented by attorney and two-time DA candidate Judith Knight. They declined to comment at the courthouse Wednesday.

Ball was released without bail on her own recognizance before her next court appearance on January 8th for a pretrial hearing.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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