Robbery by checkbook: the devil made me do it!

It’s tax day tomorrow, so let’s look at just one of the people we are forced to entrust with our money. Take Cindy Dunton, a former deputy clerk and treasurer of the town of Newburgh, Maine, pop. 1,500. Take her, please.

You see, Cindy thanked the town and the constituents who gave her a nicely-paid job by robbing them no fewer than seventeen times. She looted almost a quarter million dollars over five years. She’d just write herself a check from the town’s bank account whenever she needed the money.

Finally — imagine that — Cindy got caught; in a small town like Newburgh, eventually they missed a quarter million. Huh. Cindy didn’t see that coming.

But don’t worry about Cindy. She’s fine. The way she sees it, although a supernatural bogeyman with horns and a pitchfork led her astray, luckily God then won the battle for her immortal soul — not by filling her with guilt and remorse, and not by telling her in no uncertain terms to cut it the fuck out (so alas, no thundering voice from the heavens: “Cindy…Thou Shalt Not Steal!”), but by sending law enforcement officers with an arrest warrant to her door.

Now Cindy, while claiming to be contrite, can in good conscience tell a local newspaper that (a) it’s not really her fault — the Prince of Darkness made her do it! — and (b) God intervened on her behalf and so clearly has already forgiven her.

Talking of when she began her serial robbery-by-checkbook, Cindy recalls with a virtual shrug:

“It just happened. I don’t think I thought about it much.”

It just happened. As if by some supernatural magic. Got it.

“And it’s not like I did it every week or every other week. It was sporadic.”

Quite. It’s a distinction sure to give many victims pause.

After she got caught pretty much red-handed… and when no ethereal superpower deigned to make additional money appear out of thin air… Cindy (48) knew just who to call.

After being summoned to the town office and summarily fired by selectmen, Dunton said, one of her first moves was to call her parents for financial help. Despite a lifetime of teaching her the evils of thievery — Dunton’s father is a retired minister and her mother is deeply religious — they never wavered in their support for their daughter.

Cindy “grew up in the church,” she says — and praise the Lord, she can still talk the talk as devoutly as ever. (Maybe it’ll come in handy at her July 1 sentencing hearing.)

“The biggest thing that has come out of this is that I’ve gotten back to church and back to God. … Unless you’re spiritual, I don’t know if you’re going to understand this, but I felt as if Satan had taken over my life. And I think this was the only way that God could get me back.”

That’s nice, isn’t it? That breezy, subtly haughty statement of spirituality, I mean — combined with the fact that she just ripped off 1,500 neighbors.

As for the ill will and the sense of betrayal she’s created locally, well, Cindy simply isn’t bothered.

“Some people get all upset by how people look at you or what they say about you. I never have. That’s not my personality.”

I believe that’s church-speak for “Y’all can kiss my ass.”

“I’ve confessed my sins to God. Jesus blots out your sins, so I don’t worry about it anymore.”

They say the Lord works in mysterious ways. No mystery is bigger than the one wherein piety-spewing little criminals like Cindy Dunton somehow still think of themselves as exemplars of a higher morality.


P.S. Somewhat related: prison population broken down by religion and lack thereof. About 12 to 15 % of Americans in the general population self-identify as atheists or agnostics. The percentage of atheists and agnostics in the prison system, however, is just over 0.2 percent. The other 99.8 percent of inmates are the ones with the superior God-given moral compass. Ha.

About Rogier:
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.
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