Patricia Lindau was beloved by her clients, mostly owners of small restaurants and other businesses, until May when they learned that she had not been doing her job: paying their taxes to the state and federal government.
On Thursday, Lindau, 60, of Newburgh, Maine, was charged with stealing from two of them -- one a Haverhill electrician, the other a small business owner in Danvers. Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett charged Lindau, 60, of Newburgh, Maine, with two counts each of larceny and embezzlement by a tax preparer. She is scheduled to be arraigned on July 21.
“I feel like this will get the ball rolling for the other victims,” said Alyson Dawkins, who owns the Haverhill electrical contracting business with her husband, Douglas. They recently learned they owe more than $54,000 in taxes.
“I hope she’s charged, goes to trial, is found guilty and ends up in jail,” said Dawkins. “I’m also hoping to get some kind of restitution. I’m not living in a fairy tale thinking I’ll get everything back, but a little will help.”
As the Globe reported Monday, more than 20 small businesses, from Maine to Cape Cod, are just now learning that their payroll and unemployment taxes haven’t been paid for months, sometimes years. State and federal tax officials said that by law, they can only forgive penalties, not taxes owed or interest.
It’s unclear how much Lindau’s clients owe in unpaid taxes overall, but Lindau and her husband filed for bankruptcy late last month, listing debts of $1.3 million to their 20 biggest creditors. But that may be an understatement. One client, Jimmy’s Pizza Too of Chelmsford, has sued Lindau and her husband, saying she failed to pay $159,000 in taxes the company owed — 60 percent more than the amount Lindau listed in the bankruptcy filing.
Like many of the other clients Lindau worked for, Dawkins trusted Lindau and thought of her as family.
“Never in a million years did I think this could happen,” she said. “We had her for almost eight years. She was very personable, always asking about the family and how we were doing. She was the nicest person I have ever spoken to. Honestly, I’m baffled.”
Blodgett’s office said in a statement that prosecutors launched an investigation after “receiving complaints from two former clients of Ms. Lindau’s payroll services firm Northeast Abacus, Inc.” Authorities allege Lindau “stole an estimated $60,300 from two small businesses, located in Danvers and Haverhill, when she failed to pay their state taxes,” the statement said.
Prosecutors said the probe remains active and more charges are possible. A spokeswoman said that if Lindau is convicted, prosecutors can seek restitution for the victims.
When Lindau disappeared in May — her website gone, her phone disconnected — some feared something terrible had happened to the businesswoman, who originally worked out of Newburyport.
“I was so concerned when I couldn’t reach her, I sent an e-mail,” said Bill Cushing, owner of Christopher’s Restaurant in Reading, in a recent interview with the Globe. “I was afraid it was the virus.”
George Lambos, who owns Fresco’s Roast Beef & Seafood in Malden, has sued to recover at least $130,000 he says he owes the state and federal government.
“I have faith that the IRS and our court system will hold her accountable for what she did and make her reimburse the money and damage she has caused,” he said Thursday,
Neither Lindau nor her lawyer responded to requests for comment.
But in a court filing, an attorney for Lindau said the couple planned to liquidate assets, including their house in Maine, in hopes of paying off creditors within three to five years. The lawyer, James Molleur, called that “a worthy goal in any reorganization bankruptcy case.”
The Camden National Bank, which gave the couple several loans that are now in default, plans to auction off two commercial buildings the couple own in Eastport, Maine, on July 14.