11-year sentence for official who stole from town

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LITCHFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A former finance director for the small town of Winchester apologized for betraying taxpayers Friday as he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for stealing more than $2 million.

The thefts by Henry Centrella Jr. had such an impact on the town of 11,000 people that the mayor said it had to impose a tax increase, costing the average taxpayer about $300.

At the hearing in Litchfield Superior Court, Centrella offered apologies to his family, taxpayers and the town that had employed from 1977 until he was fired last year.

“I will not disrespect you any further by offering any excuses,” he said.

Judge James Ginocchio told Centrella that he faces a long, hard road to redemption.

Centrella pleaded guilty in January to five counts of first-degree larceny. Investigators believe Centrella removed cash from daily deposit bags from the tax department and replaced it with revenue checks received by other departments.

Centrella was finance director from 1982 and had a salary of about $78,000 when he was fired last year, according to his arrest affidavit.

Authorities say Centrella and his wife had gambling losses of more than $500,000 from 2008 through 2012, citing records from casinos including Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut.

Centrella also was sending about $1,000 per month to a woman in Florida he had met at a casino, according to his arrest affidavit. The woman told authorities he said he was divorced and they became engaged in 2009 and they looked at houses in Florida of up to $1 million, with Centrella claiming he acquired cash from selling land to Disney World and through Google stock, investigators said.

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