Defendant: Pill Addiction Leads to Embezzlement

NEWPORT CITY – A Newport woman accused of embezzling from her former employer pleaded not guilty to the felony charge in Orleans Court yesterday.Jennifer Messier, also known as Jennifer Stace, 37, faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $500.Sept. 8, 2011, George Azur told Newport City Police Sgt. Seth DiSanto that Messier had embezzled money while employed at his business. Azur said he fired Messier when he found out she took money from the store’s cash register. A surveillance video showed that Messier would ring out a customer, but instead of pressing the proper cash button, she would hit "no sale," take the customer’s money and give the correct change. Messier allegedly placed the cash in the drawer after writing in a ledger or placed the cash directly next to the register. Later, Messier wadded up the cash in a crumpled paper and remove it to an area off camera. Azur said he was missing around $641.79 but he suspected it was actually more because his inventory of liquor sales alone showed a loss of $1,534.87. Azur could not provide police further evidence regarding the loss of liquor inventory.Dec. 6, DiSanto met with Messier at her home where she spoke about her addiction to Oxycontin and how she was unable to support three children. Messier estimated she embezzled about $4,700 from Azurs.In a written statement, Messier said she developed an addiction to Oxycontin when it was prescribed to her. After it ran out, Messier bought some from a friend. Messier said she started taking money from the cash register in early 2011. In February, she moved to a home that cost $1,200 a month to rent. “It was extremely expensive to heat,” Messier said in her statement. “One night it was 50 in the house and my daughters were cold, so I took a couple hundred dollars the next day to purchase fuel.”Messier said she was not able to receive fuel assistance and was taking money for food for her children, gas for her car and other living expenses. After Messier was questioned about the thefts by Azur and subsequently fired, Messier said she walked to the Causeway Bridge with a 100 oxycontin in her pocket. “I was like a light going off,” Messier said in her statement. “I threw the entire bag into the lake. I went through withdrawals for a few weeks and haven’t touched a single pill since that day.”Messier stated that she has turned her life around and attends church every Sunday. In her statement, Messier said it was wrong for her to take the money. Messier said she intends to return the money with her paycheck and tax return.