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Lasell University student charged with stealing more than $500,000 to finance spending spree

The Boston Globe 3/10/2023 Travis Andersen
Ariel Foster, 19, of Boston, a Lasell University student, during her arraignment at Woburn district court Friday morning where she was charged with larceny over $1,200. © Abbas Sadek/NBC Boston Videojournalist Ariel Foster, 19, of Boston, a Lasell University student, during her arraignment at Woburn district court Friday morning where she was charged with larceny over $1,200.

WOBURN — When an employee at a Lovisa jewelry store at the Burlington Mall closed up on a Thursday night last month, the sales total was clearly too high — $1 million in a single day. It had to be a glitch, the district manager told the worker. Or perhaps a security breach.

Less than two weeks later, the same employee closed the store around 8:30 p.m. and left before realizing she hadn’t signed out of the register. She doubled back to find a former employee, who had quit on Feb. 2, at the register. She said she had come back to drop off her key, according to a police report filed in court.

That former employee, a 19-year-old Lasell University student named Ariel Foster, is now accused of stealing more than $500,000 in a brazen scheme and using the money to fund a monthlong shopping spree that included a red Tesla, $4,500 in Louis Vuitton purchases, and a Hawaiian vacation at a five-star hotel for her and her family, prosecutors said.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” Foster allegedly told investigators, according to the police report.

Foster, who lives in Dorchester, was arraigned in Woburn District Court Friday on a charge of larceny over $1,200. She pleaded not guilty and was released on the $1,000 bail she had posted after her arrest at her dormitory on Wednesday. She was ordered to stay away from the mall while the case is pending.

“The defendant was an employee of a store and essentially, what initiated this investigation was a series of transactions were reported on three dates in question,” Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Julien Gelly said during the brief hearing.

“And it appeared that on these dates, an item was scanned onto the register, and the price was altered to heighten the loss,” Gelly said. “The item would then be refunded onto [a] credit card” belonging to Foster.

Foster’s lawyer did not address the allegations in court. Foster left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

All told, Foster is accused of stealing more than $547,000 from the store over multiple days in February, including when her former co-worker saw her in the business after closing on the 23rd.

Foster allegedly purchased a 2018 Tesla which was registered with the RMV on Feb. 6, four days after the initial theft, according to the report.

Authorities also spoke with a Lasell police official who indicated that Foster “had been the subject of multiple investigations for similar credit card issues in the last year in regards to using fraudulent credit cards to pay for tuition.”

A spokesperson for the Newton university, Ian Meropol, said the school is aware that a student was arrested Wednesday. Meropol didn’t identify Foster by name.

“The responsibility of all students to comply with local, state, and federal laws applies both on- and off-campus,” Meropol said in a statement. “We are currently gathering all of the facts. As of today, there has been no change in her status as a full-time student. As a policy Lasell University does not release police reports.”

On Wednesday, detectives interviewed Foster, who said she had stopped working at Lovisa because she was “burnt out,” Burlington police said. Foster said she took the trip to Hawaii with her mother, brother, and roommate.

“She explained that they stayed for four days in a five-star hotel and she paid for all of it,” Burlington police wrote in their report. “When asked how she affords a trip as such she said she used her savings and also paid for a lot of it using credit cards. Ariel explained that she had been working since she was 10.”

She later told detectives she “took the money” to alleviate her mother’s stress and make her friends and family happy, the report said. Foster said she had also been feeling “unappreciated,” police said.

Police said her social media accounts showed images of her “in a tropical setting” in Hawaii, as well as images “stating she is in Atlanta, Florida, Las Vegas, Germany, and much more.”

The profiles also indicate she’s in a dating relationship with a man whose last name appears on one of the bank accounts where some of the allegedly stolen funds were deposited, according to police.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 5.

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