Trial starts of lawyer accused of illegally obtaining money from disabled client
A lawyer has been accused 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.
But Jacqueline MacLellan, head of MacLellan and Associates and Ms Vieira’s employer at the time, told the court she was shocked to learn that Ms Vieira had gained power of attorney and borrowed $50,000 from the client under the pretence of needing it to become a partner in the firm.
Ms MacLellan said that she had no interest in making Ms Vieira a partner and had actually warned her that she was at risk of being fired.
“Right before this happened I had put Nancy on probation for three months,” she said. “If she didn’t start performing as she should then she was going to be fired.”
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 also denied allegations that she stole $28,615 from Ms Badenduck – who died in 2019 – through unauthorised ATM withdrawals and $7,601 through unauthorised debit card transactions between August 2015 and October 2016.
As the trial began this week, Ms MacLellan said she had hired Ms Vieira to work at her firm in November 2014 and that the defendant had brought in Ms Badenduck as a client in the first week of June 2015.
She said she understood the firm had been hired to organise the lawful termination of a caregiver for Ms Badenduck, who was paralysed, and apply for a protection order to keep the caregiver from going to the house or influencing other caregivers.
Ms Vieira was also asked to assist police in gathering evidence of any potential theft by the caregiver.
“I understood that it concluded at some point between January and April in 2016,” Ms MacLellan said. “Nancy told me that the information was in the hands of the police and I stopped getting time sheets and billing from Nancy for Ms Badenduck.”
She told the court that in November 2016 she received a call from Ms Badenduck who made a series of complaints about Ms Vieira.
Ms MacLellan said she subsequently organised a meeting with Ms Vieira.
She said that during the meeting with the defendant, she raised the “eight to ten” complaints, including that the defendant had failed to renew her passport, renew her caregiver’s work permit and failed to pay her caregivers on time.
Ms MacLellan said Ms Vieira confirmed in the meeting that she had been given power of attorney over Ms Badenduck and had made an arrangement to be paid $2,000 a month by the senior for her services.
She said the defendant also admitted that Ms Badenduck had loaned her $50,000 so that she could pay for a “buy-in” to become a partner at Ms MacLellan’s firm.
The witness said that while she understood some firms required a “buy in” from prospective partners, she had never discussed making Ms Vieira a partner.
“There were two reasons. The first is that I’m essentially a sole practitioner – I don’t want a partner,” Ms MacLellan said.
“The second was that during 2016, in March and June, I had to give Nancy warnings, which I put in writing with respect to her performance.”
Ms MacLellan added that she had put Ms Vieira on probation in October 2016 – a month before the complaints came to light.
She said she told Ms Vieira that she would be fired, which she said the defendant “just accepted”, and the defendant stopped working for the firm at the end of the month.
“She was already on probation and this was such an egregious abuse of her employment relationship with me,” Ms MacLellan said.
Ms MacLellan said that in December 2016 Ms Vieira came to her office to deliver two bank drafts.
She said that one draft was for $25,000, which Ms Vieira said was intended to repay half of the loan, and one for $15,000 to cover “disbursements” – funds taken out of Ms Badenduck’s accounts for uncompleted tasks.
Ms MacLellan said that she and her firm’s accountant took over power of attorney for Ms Badenduck and helped her for free.
“It was the least I could do,” she said. “I felt terrible. This woman had trusted Nancy to do all these things and Nancy had abused that trust while she was my employee. The buck stops with me.”
Ms Vieira, who is representing herself in the trial, questioned Ms MacLellan about how the case came to the firm and suggested that Ms Badenduck’s brother had been the actual client.
Ms MacLellan said she understood that he had approached the firm on behalf of Ms Badenduck, and that she was the client.
She said that while invoices were sent to the brother, the payments came from Ms Badenduck’s account. However, Ms Vieira suggested the account was in the name of both siblings.
The trial continues.
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