By Julie Manganis
Janet H. Andrews, who owns a Re/Max real estate franchise, pleaded not guilty to charges of insurance fraud and filing a false police report at her arraignment late last month in Peabody District Court.
But according to Peabody police, Andrews admitted she had been "financially strapped" when she came up with the plan to report a burglary and make an insurance claim.
On the morning of May 10, Peabody police got a call about a burglary at 179 Main St., the home Andrews owns. Andrews told the officer that sometime after 6 p.m. the night before, someone had broken in and taken items from her apartment and a locked basement, as well as her purse and keys.
Police found no signs of forced entry but asked her to make a list of what was missing.
A week later, Andrews showed up with a list claiming $92,000 worth of antiques and paintings were stolen from her basement, including a pair of antique chairs valued at $35,000, an oil painting valued at $25,000 and another worth $10,000, antique porcelain from China, an Oriental rug, and a collection of antique vases. She also reported a 28-inch flat-screen television missing, as well as her Coach purse, wallet and sunglasses, which she valued at more than $700.
Police, however, were starting to grow suspicious, given some discrepancies between what she initially told them and what she later listed as missing, according to the report.
They were also concerned that the claimed value of the missing items was just under the $94,000 limit on her insurance policy.
And then, after taking a look at the basement of her home, they grew more concerned, noticing that the cellar was cluttered and damp, investigator Antone Sims wrote in his report, "not really a place for antiques to be stored."
Police also questioned why Andrews told them she kept certificates of deposit in her purse.
Caught on video
Police then learned that on May 24, three men had shown up at a Danvers storage locker rented by Andrews and removed several large items, including a painting in a frame, two older wooden chairs and some boxes, all of which looked like the items Andrews had reported stolen. An employee said Andrews showed up a short time later and went in but took nothing out.
Police got another call from an employee of the same storage facility a few days later, on June 1. He told them that a woman named Amanda Kozak - who, as it turns out, is the girlfriend of Andrews' handyman, Josh Gauthier - had just rented a storage locker and listed Andrews as one of the people with access.
A surveillance video from the morning of June 1 showed a group of people, including Gauthier, moving Andrews' missing items into the storage locker, Sims wrote in his report.
Police caught up with Gauthier about a week later. He told them that he had met Andrews about 12 years ago while working on houses that she wanted to sell.
Confronted with the video of himself going into the two storage bins, Gauthier admitted that Andrews had asked him, her nephew and another friend to go to her storage unit and move items to a house on School Street in Salem. Then, he said, he and the other men were asked to move the items from the house to another storage unit that Andrews had asked his girlfriend to rent.
Gauthier's girlfriend, Kozak, told police that Andrews had given her $300 to lease the unit and that she had given Andrews the key.
A few days after that, on June 12, Andrews was questioned again by police.
Andrews continued to insist that she had been burglarized - until police told her they had talked to Gauthier.
Then, she told police that she had come home to discover a burglary and had called Gauthier to change the locks. She said it was Gauthier's suggestion to file the insurance claim, police said.
But she later admitted that on the day an insurance company investigator was questioning her about the claim, she called Gauthier and asked him to move the items from her storage unit to the home on School Street. She insisted it was Gauthier's idea to move the items to another storage unit.
After she gave police a statement, she was told she would be charged with insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
About three hours later, police learned, Andrews went back to the storage unit rented by Kozak.
Andrews' lawyer, Michael Smerczynski, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Andrews is free on personal recognizance. She is due back in court on Aug. 17 for a pretrial conference.