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March 25, 2013

Lawyer's law license suspended

Haverhill attorney stole more than $250K from family

HAVERHILL — Richard Hayes, the Haverhill lawyer who pleaded guilty in January to stealing more than $250,000 from two family trusts when his mother-in-law died, is no longer licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.

The Supreme Judicial Court suspended Hayes’ license after a request to do so by the Office of Bar Council. The suspension was effective Feb. 25.

Under the order, Hayes must withdraw from all legal cases, notify any clients and refund part of any fees paid in advance that have not been earned. Hayes must also close any bank accounts related to client business and return any client funds in his control, according to the decision.

The suspension notice said the matter has been referred to the Board of Bar Overseers for potential further action, which could include disbarment.

Hayes, 60, received a 2 1/2-year suspended jail term and five years of probation under a plea agreement in Salem Superior Court. He lives on East Broadway and has a law office at 1146 Main St., Unit 2B.

Hayes admitted that for months after the 2009 death of his mother-in-law at age 88, he continued to take monthly $24,000 disbursements from two family trusts, without telling the bank that held those trusts that the elderly woman had died. He also did not tell his own family that the power of attorney he had been granted expired when the beneficiary of the trust died. Family members said the total loss was $262,000.

Prosecutor Jennifer Kirshenbaum said Hayes continued “stonewalling” family members who were urging him to begin probate proceedings for the estate of Margaret “Peggy” Clark.

The prosecutor in the case said the money from the trusts went into Hayes’ law firm and client accounts, as well as toward general expenses.

Hayes also agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a civil lawsuit brought by three of Clark’s four surviving children — Eben Clark, Margaret Towle and Betsy Clark.

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