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Lawyer accused of stealing $80,000 from quadriplegic

Prosecutors accused a lawyer of unlawfully obtaining more than $80,000 from a disabled client.

The Supreme Court heard that Nancy Vieira had been hired by Kirsten Badenduck in 2015 to fire a caregiver suspected of stealing from her, get a protection order for her client and pursue criminal or civil proceedings against the caregiver.

But Jacqueline MacLellan, head of MacLellan and Associates and Ms Vieira’s employer at the time, said she was “shocked” to learn that the defendant had gained power of attorney over Ms Badenduck and borrowed $50,000 from her, under the guise of a possible “buy-in” to become a partner at the firm.

Ms MacLellan said: “I was shocked that Nancy would borrow money from a quadriplegic, for whom she had complete control over her financial and day-to-day affairs, and not get independent legal advice.

“Independent legal advice would be able to confirm that Ms Badenduck was loaning the money voluntarily and that it was properly documented.

“This woman was at the complete mercy of her caregivers and Nancy. She had no ability to do anything.”

Ms MacLellan added that during the course of Ms Vieira’s employment at the firm she had never discussed the possibility of her becoming a partner.

“Quite the opposite,” she said. “We had numerous discussions about how she needed to improve.”

Ms Vieira, from Pembroke, has denied charges that she dishonestly obtained a $50,000 money transfer from Ms Badenduck between January and July 2016.

She has further denied allegations that she stole $28,615 from Ms Badenduck through unauthorised ATM withdrawals and $7,601 through unauthorised debit card transactions between August 2015 and October 2016.

As Ms Vieira’s trial began in the Supreme Court, Ms MacLellan testified by Zoom that she had hired the defendant in 2014 primarily to assist her with divorce matters.

“Because Nancy had experience in other areas of the law, it was agreed that she could take on cases in other areas so long as I approved it,” Ms MacLellan said.

“It was good for the firm because it allowed the firm to provide additional services.”

She said that in June 2015, Ms Viera brought in Ms Badenduck as a client for the firm.

Ms MacLellan said: “The firm had been retained to handle a caregiver who had been accused of stealing from Ms Badenduck.

“What she needed Nancy’s help with was essentially firing the caregiver legally, bringing in a protection order and to assist the police in assessing what monies had been stolen with a view to suing the caregiver.”

She said that, to her knowledge, the matter had been concluded in early 2016, with the final invoice sent to Ms Badenduck in April of that year.

But Ms MacLellan said that in November 2016 she received a call at her office from the client about Ms Vieira.

She told the court that she met Ms Badenduck in person in her office the next day, where she raised “nine or ten” different matters, including a $50,000 loan.

Ms MacLellan met with Ms Vieira the following day, and she accepted that she had borrowed $50,000 from Ms Badenduck and that she had told the client it was related to a possible buy-in at the firm.

She said Ms Vieira also acknowledged that she had taken over a range of responsibilities for Ms Badenduck, such as paying her caregivers, and had received $2,000 a month for that work.

Ms MacLellan said: “Nancy was conducting a side job.

“That was never discussed. It was never agreed. I knew nothing about it.”

She added: “We are lawyers. We are not in the business of handling people’s financial affairs and paying caregivers. It’s too big a responsibility.”

Ms MacLellan said that she instructed Ms Vieira to repay the loan, and told her that she would not be able to continue work at MacLellan and Associates.

She said she told Ms Vieira to turn over a HSBC banking fob – a token used to provide easy access to bank accounts – linked to Ms Badenduck’s account and for her to provide a copy of the promissory note signed in connection to the loan.

Ms MacLellan said Ms Vieira provided the fob, but she never provided a promissory note.

She said that Ms Vieira formally left the firm at the end of November and in December Ms Vieira provided her two bank drafts – one for $25,000 and a second for $15,000.

Ms MacLellan said: “The $25,000 was half the repayment of the $50,000 loan, and she said the $15,000 bank draft was reimbursement for cash withdrawals she had made to pay for things for Ms Badenduck like work permit fees.”

She said both drafts were deposited into Ms Badenduck’s account. The trial continues.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.