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Lawyer found guilty of swindling $80,000 from disabled client

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A lawyer accused of dishonestly obtaining more than $80,000 from a disabled client was found guilty yesterday after a prolonged Supreme Court trial.

Nancy Vieira, from Pembroke, was convicted of dishonestly obtaining a money transfer from Kirsten Badenduck between January and July 2016.

She was further convicted of stealing $28,615 from Ms Badenduck through unauthorised ATM withdrawals and $7,601 through unauthorised debit card transactions between August 2015 and October 2016.

Nancy Vieira

A six-man, six-woman jury delivered a unanimous verdict shortly after rewatching a recorded interview with Ms Badenduck, who died in 2019.

While Vieira told the court that she intended to appeal her conviction and requested that she be released on bail, Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe remanded her in custody pending sentence.

“It is likely that the defendant will receive a term of imprisonment and potentially a lengthy one given that she had a full trial,” Mr Justice Wolffe said.

The judge also ordered a social inquiry report on Vieira and ordered that the matter be mentioned in March.

Ms Badenduck was an insurance executive who became a champion for the disabled after a 2002 traffic collision left her confined to a wheelchair.

In a police interview recorded before her death, she said that she had loaned Vieira $50,000 to help her to secure a junior partnership at the firm MacLellan and Associates.

Ms Badenduck told officers that while Vieira had access to her bank accounts, she never showed her copies of her bank statements — and that she had never asked for them.

She also said that Vieira was never given permission to make cash withdrawals on her behalf.

“I was too trustworthy,” she said. “I just didn’t believe that anybody was going to rip me off.”

Jaqueline MacLellan, the head of the firm and Vieira’s employer at the time, told the court that she had never discussed the possibility of partnership with Vieira and had no interest in it.

She told the court that in June 2015 Vieira had been tasked with terminating a caregiver suspected of stealing from Ms Badenduck and assist police with their investigation.

Ms MacLellan said she understood that the work was completed in early 2016, but Ms Badenduck contacted her in November that year to complain about Vieira.

At that time, she said, she was informed about the loan and discovered that Vieira had been given power of attorney over Ms Badenduck.

Vieira was terminated, but in December 2016 she returned to MacLellan and Associates to deliver bank drafts for $25,000 and $15,000 intended to repay part of the loan and cover cash withdrawals for tasks that she did not complete.

The court heard of multiple cash withdrawals, purchases and money transfers made from Ms Badenduck’s account to Vieira’s.

Vieira — who represented herself during the trial — told the court that all the transactions were made with Ms Badenduck’s knowledge and permission.

She said that several caregivers and workers had requested to be paid in cash, which explained some of the withdrawals and transfers.

Vieira acknowledged that one purchase — a hotel stay at the Hamilton Princess — was made in error after she used the wrong card to check in, but said she immediately told Ms Badenduck and that part of the $15,000 bank draft was a repayment for it.

She also accepted that she had borrowed the money from Ms Badenduck under the pretext of using it to secure a partnership, but said that it had been her honest intention at the time to propose the partnership to Ms MacLellan.

Vieira claimed that months later her situation changed and that she had spoken with Ms Badenduck about putting the funds towards the mortgage on a property after a conflict had arisen with the bank.

She told the court that Ms Badenduck and her brother had agreed with the change of purpose.

Vieira said that she had created a promissory note for the loan, which Ms Badenduck had signed, but the note did not state the purpose of the loan.

She added that she had advised Ms Badenduck to get an independent opinion on the promissory note, but that she did so after it had been signed.

During her summing up, Viera told the jury that the prosecution had failed to provide any evidence to prove her guilt.

She said: “They’ve asked you to join the dots. That’s not for you to do, it’s for the prosecution, and they failed to do that.

“That’s why they keep on asking you to use your common sense. It’s all assumptions and assertions and conjecture, but no real evidence. They have been left with nothing concrete to support their case.”

However, the jury delivered a unanimous guilty verdict on all three counts after about five hours of deliberation.

The trial was the second covering the allegations, with the first beginning last May. However, the trial was plagued by delays and was halted due to an outbreak of Covid-19.

Medical issues also caused delays in the most recent trial, which began in early December, with several individuals involved in the case requiring time away from the courts.

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