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Lawyer maintains alleged theft victim was fearful of retaliation

An attorney denied yesterday that she “made up” claims that a client was hesitant to bring a complaint of theft by a former lawyer to the police out of fear of retaliation.

Jacqueline MacLellan maintained in the Supreme Court that Kristen Badenduck had told her she was afraid of reprisals from Nancy Vieira, who has been accused of dishonestly obtaining more than $80,000 from her.

However she accepted that neither she nor Ms Badenduck had mentioned the fears during an interview with police.

She also told the court she didn’t include the concerns in a complaint letter sent to the Bermuda Bar Association because it was a “separate matter” and had nothing to do with the fear of retaliation.

But Ms MacLellan denied a suggestion that she had “made up” the concerns on the stand.

“This is the first time that I have been asked about this,” she said. “I have no intent or desire to make anything up. I didn’t make it up.”

She also denied that she had coaxed Ms Badenduck to give a statement to the police about the matter.

Ms MacLellan said that while Ms Badenduck had told officers her memory was not good during the interview, she explained that the victim had only recently left hospital when the interview took place

She said: “It was fine when she first brought the complaint. She had been in hospital, where she almost lost her life.”

The court previously heard that Ms Badenduck, a business executive who had been paralysed in a road crash, died in 2019.

Ms Vieira, from Pembroke, has denied charges that she dishonestly obtained a $50,000 money transfer from Ms Badenduck, a quadriplegic, 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.

Ms MacLellan, who employed Ms Vieira at MacLellan and Associates until November 2016, told the court that the defendant had brought Ms Badenduck to the firm as a client in 2015.

She said the firm had been hired to address an issue regarding a caregiver accused of theft – a matter Ms MacLellan believed was resolved by April 2016.

However she said she was shocked to discover in November of that year that Ms Vieira had been given power of attorney over Ms Badenduck and had been managing her affairs.

She told the court that after Ms Badenduck raised concerned, she had a meeting with Ms Vieira.

Ms MacLellan said that during the meeting, Ms Vieira accepted that she had borrowed $50,000 from Ms Badenduck and that she had told the senior that the funds were intended to cover a “buy in” to make Ms Vieira a partner at MacLellan and Associates.

Ms MacLellan said that there had been no discussion of making Ms Vieira a partner, and that she had told Ms Vieira at the meeting that she would not be able to continue to work at the firm.

Asked why she fired Ms Vieira, she said: “I let her go for serious misconduct and she was already on probation with the firm. She accepted it. She knew it was over.”

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.