Two women have been indicted on multiple felony charges for allegedly stealing more than $7,000 from a fund set up to aid the victims of a fire in Fort Edward that killed six children last year and creating fake receipts to hide the theft.
Tina Goodell, 41, of Hudson Falls, and Robin Renaud, formerly of Hudson Falls, each face felony counts of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, as well as misdemeanor counts of conspiracy, court records show.
Renaud also faces a felony count of intimidating a witness, though it was unclear Monday why that charge was filed.
The women are accused of taking $7,439 from the fund that was set up to aid the Smith and Cox families after six of their children died in a fire on June 26 in their Burgoyne Avenue home. Renaud had started the fund to help the survivors of the fire, and Goodell helped her as they organized several events. The biggest was a spaghetti dinner that brought in $35,000 that was used to defray funeral expenses.
Renaud said last summer that she believed as much as $100,000 was taken during the various fundraisers for the families, only some of which she was involved in.
Goodell pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Monday and was released on her own recognizance.
Renaud has not been arraigned. She moved to North Carolina late last year, and her lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said she is to appear in Washington County Court for arraignment Friday morning.
Court records show the women are accused of providing three falsified receipts that indicated $4,500 of the money was paid to the Fort Edward Fire Department, a disc jockey for a July 18 fundraiser and to purchase cakes.
State Police Investigator Jeff Horn is quoted in court records as telling Goodell there was a math error on one of the receipts, but Goodell is quoted as telling him that she was not concerned about the discrepancy.
Both Stanclift and Goodell's lawyer, Christian Morris, said their clients did not steal any money or break any laws.
"I think this is a thin case. They don't have all their facts," Morris said.
"Let's prosecute soccer moms for doing a good thing in Washington County," Stanclift said.
State Police began investigating the case last summer, after lawyers Michael Martin and Trinidad Martin - hired by the deceased children's parents, Lewis "Carl" Smith and Samantha Cox - noticed discrepancies in the bank account Renaud had set up to manage the money, officials said.
Michael Martin said the family was saddened by the theft at a time when they were trying to get back on their feet. They had hoped to build a new home with the aid of the money donated by well-wishers but have been unable to do so, he said.
"It just makes it more of a tragedy," Martin said. "They were at the lowest point of their existence, and someone took advantage of them."
The weightiest charge, third-degree grand larceny, is punishable by up to 7 years in state prison.