Corrected and updated June 10, 2020
A town accountant who was indicted this week for stealing nearly $730,000 from towns in central and western Massachusetts was described as “of Harvard” in a press release from the attorney general’s office. That information was picked up and repeated by news service MassLive, radio station WBUR, television news channels WHDH and WCVB, and the Worcester Telegram online. Yet Harvard town records showed nothing to indicate that Justin Cole, the man a grand jury charged with the thefts, resided here.
Alexander Bradley of the attorney general’s office wrote in an email to the Press, “From our records, it looks as though Cole has a mailing address in Harvard and a residential address in Halifax. This probably means his residence is actually in Halifax, but he either has a business address or PO box in Harvard.” In a later email to the Press, after this article first appeared online, Cole himself confirmed that he has only a business post office box in Harvard and lives in Halifax.
Cole, 38, faces 16 counts of larceny and related offenses for stealing money from the towns of Uxbridge and Millville in Worcester County and the town of Monterrey in Berkshire County, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday, July 7. The press release from her office alleges that the thefts from Uxbridge extended from 2012 to 2017, with Cole “submitting and approving dozens of false invoices and related submissions that caused the town to pay for services not provided.”
Cole was also town accountant for Ashburnham, Hadley, Hatfield, and Warwick until last fall, when he told those towns, together with Millville and Monterrey, that he was closing his accounting firm as of Dec. 31, 2019, because he was “struggling with some health issues,” according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Cole was the sole proprietor of Baystate Municipal Accounting Group, based in Maynard. According to documents filed with the state, the company’s name was changed to Assabet River Holdings in 2014. For several years Cole also lived in Maynard, where he served at least two terms on the town finance committee, from 2011 until he resigned in 2017.
This article was updated Friday, July 10. Joan Eliyesil contributed to this report.