NEWBURY — A group of area residents once involved in the Yellow School Center for the Arts in the Byfield section of Newbury are trying to revive their dream of a community arts program.
They’re hoping a Salem Superior Court judge will allow them to continue collecting restitution payments owed by the group’s former treasurer, whose thefts of more than $100,000, a prosecutor said, led to the organization’s demise.
But the former treasurer, David Takesian, is challenging that restitution order, contending that because the organization is defunct, he shouldn’t have to give back the money he stole.
The argument outraged First Assistant District Attorney Jack Dawley, who said if a judge allows Takesian, of Amesbury, to stop repaying the $82,000 in restitution he owes, it will amount to a case of “unjust enrichment.”
Takesian, now 47, used the money to pay his mortgage, credit card bills and other expenses, prosecutors said.
Not only did Takesian essentially drive the nonprofit out of business with his thefts over a three-year period in the mid-2000s, said the prosecutor, but he then used a promise of making full restitution to reduce his time behind bars.
Dawley said prosecutors initially weren’t seeking restitution from Takesian, an accountant, but rather a state prison term.
“We believe his offer was intended to offset the Commonwealth’s recommendation of state prison, and it worked,” said Dawley.
Takesian, who pleaded guilty in 2008, received two years in the house of correction, a county jail, instead of the three- to five-year state prison term sought by prosecutors.
That county jail term entitled him to parole after a year. He was supposed to begin paying $400 a month after his release from jail. He’s paid about $14,000 since his release, including a $1,000 payment toward his arrears last month.
Earlier this year, a probation officer issued a notice warning Takesian that he was in violation of his restitution order after he failed to make any payments for several months.