Aug 31, 2013
06:35 AMConnecticut Today
Former Finance Director in Winsted Accused of Stealing Millions for Gambling, Mistress
John McKenna/Republican American pool photo
Henry Centrella, the former Winsted finance director, is arraigned in Litchfield Superior Court Aug. 30.
Former Winchester Finance Director Henry Centrella was arrested by state police on larceny charges Friday. He is accused of stealing more than $2 million from taxpayers to fund his gambling and a double life of extravagant spending on a Florida mistress he had promised to marry.
According to court affidavits, Centrella had a mistress in Florida he was engaged to in 2009. According to the warrant, she said Centrella was looking into purchasing two homes there around that time. The values of those homes ranged from $700,000 to $1 million. No such homes were ever purchased.
His mistress told State Police Det. Michael Fitzsimons that Centrella said he acquired the money from 88 acres of land he sold to Disney World and Google stock.
“He spared no expense and likes how people looked at him when he said he would pay in cash,” she told police, adding that the amount of cash he carried on him made her nervous.
Though he was still married to his wife, Gregg, Centrella prepaid for the wedding to his mistress in Florida in October 2009. She said he paid for the wedding, a custom dress, and flights for all of her friends and family. Later, he postponed the wedding because of his health. He told her he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Aligning with the timing of the resignation letter he submitted in the fall of 2012, his mistress, who was not identified in the warrant, said he told her he was retiring soon and would join her shortly in Florida.
The affair ended in March of this year, according to police, after she visited Centrella in Winsted and discovered he was still married.
Gregg Centrella told police that she still lives in their home on Gilbert Avenue, however, she has not spoken to Centrella in months. She said that Centrella handled all of the finances of the home and, to her knowledge, no large sums of cash entered the home. She declined extensive questioning.
Centrella was taken into custody at his home on Gilbert Avenue. He was processed at State Police Troop L and was transported to his arraignment at Litchfield Superior Court Friday afternoon. He was charged with five counts of first-degree larceny. Each count can carry up to 20 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. The case was continued until Oct. 8, and no plea was entered in the case Friday.
Centrella appeared in court wearing khaki shorts, a blue polo shirt and white athletic sneakers, his hands cuffed in front of him.
During his arraignment, the bond commissioner recommended that Centrella be released on a promise to appear because of his long-time residency in Winsted, and because he lives there with his wife and children.
State’s attorney David Shepack argued against the bond reduction, saying Centrella, “was able to manage and conceal the embezzlement the state alleges, of well over $2 million.”
Shepack called Centrella’s connections to Winsted “fragile” and said the five counts of first-degree larceny Centrella was charged with were a “significant criminal exposure.”
“There is certainly an element of breach of public trust,” he said. “These charges do give the defendant a reason to flee. The warrant lays out that he has significant ties to Florida.”
Judge James P. Ginocchio ruled that Centralla’s bond would remain at $100,000 “due to the seriousness of the charges, the strength of the state’s case, the allegations and the ties to Florida.”
Centrella was fired in January after 35 years as the town’s finance director. He was the only person to ever hold that position in the town. Centrella had been placed on leave in November 2012 after officials uncovered accounting irregularities.
Detectives from the state police Western District Major Crime Squad began investigating Centrella on Jan. 18 after receiving a complaint in 2012 about discrepancies in the town’s financial records.After conducting numerous interviews and collecting evidence with the help of a forensic accounting firm, detectives found that more than $2 million was unaccounted for between January 2008 and November of 2012, according to state police.