WHATELY — The Connecticut woman with a host community agreement and state Cannabis Control Commission approval to open an adult-use recreational marijuana dispensary in town claims retaliation is at the center of fraud charges she faces in her home state.
Dr. Karen Gaston, 40, of East Granby, Conn., was arraigned last week in Hartford Superior Court on charges of first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community, first-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny by defrauding a public community, and health insurance fraud stemming from the years she owned and operated Elegant Clinical Corp., a not-for-profit organization in East Windsor, Conn., that served people with developmental and mental health disabilities.
Gaston pleaded not guilty and was released on a $75,000 non-surety bond. She is scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 15.
“It’s an allegation that I’m completely innocent of,” she said this week. “This is completely bogus. It sucks.”
Gaston said the charges are the result of a falling out with Elisa Velardo, north regional director of Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Services, with whom she once worked at Vinfen Corp. of Connecticut, where Velardo served as senior vice president. Gaston said she once answered in the negative when Velardo asked if she trusted her. Gaston said she left the company and created Elegant Clinical Corp. with her then-husband. She said the state shut down the not-for-profit vocational center on Feb. 3, 2019, in a previous act of retaliation.
This disappointed Gaston, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology, but she said she decided to take the opportunity to focus on Diamond Shine LLC, her recreational marijuana company that earlier this month received its license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to operate. The plan is to open a 1,000-square-foot dispensary at 85 State Road in Whately — formerly the home