Despite having to deal with Juul-vaping brats all day, lunch ladies are usually sweet, innocent old ladies who—with each dollop of watery mashed potatoes—give kids a pure, wholesome reprieve from the dark hellscape that is middle and high school. It's hard to imagine them cursing, much less breaking the law—but according to the cops, a pair of cafeteria ladies in New Canaan, Connecticut, are actually criminal masterminds who conned their school district out of thousands of dollars.
According to the News-Times, cops believe sisters Joanne Pascarelli, 61, and Marie Wilson, 67 ran a pretty simple, but lucrative scheme to scam the local schools out of nearly $500,000 over the course of five years—but possibly even longer. Between 2012 and 2017, the duo allegedly skimmed $478,588 from their lunchrooms, pocketing cash students were spending on undercooked pizza or whatever every day.
Apparently Wilson and Pascarelli—who ran the lunchrooms at the local high school and middle school, respectively—never let cashiers count the money in their registers before or after their shifts, and insisted on doing it themselves in their private offices. Then they'd allegedly underreport what the cafeteria had earned that day, taking most of what it had actually made. Cafeteria workers told the police they even saw the sisters straight-up lift money out of the cash registers between lunch periods, the Hartford Currant reports.
Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School didn't seem to notice anything was up until they started to get complaints about the cafeteria hands. The duo apparently kept things under wraps by punishing anyone who snitched: When one employee asked Pascarelli about her suspicious system for handling cash, she allegedly made the employee wash dishes for months in retaliation. When another questioned Wilson, she got transferred from the high school to the middle school, according to police. Finally the school district launched an investigation after a worker reported the sisters, and a new electronic cash-counting system was implemented.
“I am very surprised,” Allie Neugeboren, a former student at the high school, told the News-Times. “I remember [Wilson] as always being rude or in bad moods, but I always felt like that was understandable because I know some kids in the cafeteria are just plain rude so it always made me want to be even more nice to them.”
The sisters, who turned themselves in to police over the weekend, both insist they're innocent. They've been charged with larceny and defrauding a public community, a felony that could land them behind bars, where—if convicted—they could end up dishing slop onto plastic trays for up to ten years.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.