Boston Living Center closes chapter on embezzlement case

Boston Living Center
Boston Living Center at 29 Stanhope Street. Photo by Rob Phelps

The Boston Living Center received some closure after Judge Robert Tochka of the Boston Municipal Court ruled last month that no violation of probation had been found in the 2011 embezzlement case of Valerie Tebbetts and that Tebbetts has served out her five-year probation.

Tebbetts had pleaded guilty to embezzling over $126,000 from the BLC while serving as executive director of the region’s largest nonprofit providing education, treatment and other support to the HIV/AIDS community. At her 2011 sentencing hearing, Tebbetts had been directed to stay away from casinos and the lottery, and was ordered to pay $123,497.12 restitution, with statuary costs, to the organization from which she stole.

After this January’s probation hearing, Judge Tochka found that, although Tebbetts had only paid back a small portion of the ordered restitution, Tebbetts was able to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that she had an inability to pay the restitution ordered.  As Tebbetts’s probationary term has expired, her probation is now terminated.

Back in 2010, BLC’s board acted swiftly upon learning of Tebbetts’ crime. Between 2010 and 2012, the board brought in over $200,000 from community support and turned BLC operations over to Victory Programs, the Boston-based non-profit that operates 17 health and housing programs in Boston, Cambridge and Topsfield and serves more than 2,300 people every year.

In a January 31 statement to Boston Spirit, Victory Programs President & CEO Jonathan Scott said:

Today the Boston Living Center is a thriving, robust and exceptionally stable  program. The 2012 merger with Victory Programs has been extremely successful and a model of cooperation for our entire community.  The members of the BLC living with HIV/AIDS are receiving more relevant and high quality services through our meals and peer support programs.  In the end, despite the tumultuous turmoil from Valerie Tebbetts’ embezzlement, today the BLC is stronger than ever.

What’s frustrating is how our justice system can sometimes play out so unfairly. For all of Valerie Tebbetts’ brazen and heartless, willful and deliberate theft, she never did any jail time, nor did she make any serious effort at restitution for all the BLC’s loss and hardship.  The plea bargain agreement saved her from jail, but required her to “make full financial amends” over five years.  Our records show she gave the minimum during this time, barely paying the BLC more than $1,000 of the $123,500 indisputably confirmed she stole.

But sometimes karma or serendipity intervenes in the most mysterious and extraordinary ways.  The same day the Boston judge ruled to exonerate Valerie from her probation — essentially freeing her of any future obligation of restitution to the BLC — Victory Programs received an out-of-the blue magnanimous $100,000 grant from one of our generous supporters. Now that is true divine justice for the BLC.