EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 28, 2012

Haverhill lawyer to face charge of stealing $262K

Mother-in-law's estate may have been mishandled

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Haverhill lawyer Richard Hayes will face a jury trial Jan. 14 on charges he stole $262,434 from a trust intended for the children and grand children of his late mother-in-law.

Hayes, 60, who lives on East Broadway and has a law office at 1146 Main St., unit 2B, was arraigned in September 2011 after he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of larceny over $250. He is charged with stealing the money from the estate of his mother-in-law, Margaret Clark, after her death in November 2009. She was 88.

The criminal trial follows the resolution of a civil lawsuit last summer, in which Hayes and his wife Catherine Clark agreed to pay three of Margaret Clark’s other children $335,000, return the deceased woman’s jewelry to them and give up claims to any of Clark’s property, including a home she owned on Martha’s Vineyard.

In settling the civil lawsuit, the Hayes’ also agreed to pay $100,000 back to Clark’s trust and sign documents removing themselves as trustees to Clark’s estate and will.

Richard Hayes and his lawyer, William Delaney, have each declined previous requests from The Eagle-Tribune for comment.

The lawsuit, which also named the Hayes’ business, Cool Moo Classic Fresh Ice Cream in Haverhill, was filed by Clark’s eldest son, Eben Clark of Vineyard Haven, and two of Clark’s daughters, Margaret Towle of Colorado and Elizabeth Clark of Groveland. Catharine Hayes is Margaret Clark’s fourth surviving child. The plaintiffs accused Hayes of stealing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in money and real estate from them and Clark’s 11 grandchildren.

Specifically, the complaint alleged that Richard and Catharine Hayes took $564,054 they were not entitled to from Clark’s trust from 2005 until the elderly woman’s death. It also says Richard Hayes’ misconduct as Clark’s lawyer, including his failure to pay taxes on Clark’s assets during the time he was overseeing her affairs, cost her other children $542,935.

The criminal charges allege that Hayes received and converted to his own use $262,434 in trust payments to Clark over a 10-month period following her death.

Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswomen for the Essex District Attorney’s Office, said the criminal trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 14 in Salem Superior Court.

According to the civil lawsuit, Clark lived in Haverhill with Richard Hayes and his wife for a short period of time before she died — a span in which Clark was losing her memory and suffered from dementia.

The suit alleged Hayes, who was his mother-in-law’s attorney from the time he became licensed to practice law in Massachusetts in 1997 until Clark’s death in 2009, used his control over her assets and affairs to take advantage of her failing health and decreased mental capacity “to take her money and property for his own use.”

The complaint said Hayes failed to pay taxes owed by Clark for several years that Hayes was in charge of Clark’s money and property.

The lawsuit said a portion of the money Hayes allegedly stole from Clark’s trust was used to unjustly help Catharine Hayes, including $165,000 to fund the Cool Moo ice-cream business at 558 River St. owned by the couple and $20,000 for a paralegal business started by Richard Hayes. Another $37,000 from Clark’s trust was used to pay college tuition bills for the couple’s children, the lawsuit said.

The complaint also alleged Hayes placed property owned by Clark at 25 Farm Pond Road in Oaks Bluff into a trust controlled by him. The suit said Clark wanted that property put into a trust to benefit her 11 grandchildren. Documents in the case said Richard Hayes “exerted undue influence or pressure” on Clark to sign the Pond House over to Hayes five months before her death.

In January 2009, Hayes drafted a document giving him power of attorney and the authority to make gifts to himself from Clark’s assets, the lawsuit said.

The suit also said all of Clark’s assets were to be immediately divided between Clark’s four children upon her death, but that Hayes misrepresented to Wells Fargo, which held the assets of Clark’s trust, that Clark was “still living long after her death.”

Wells Fargo eventually referred Hayes conduct to local authorities in Philadelphia, who referred the matter to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, the lawsuit said.

According to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, Hayes has practiced law since 1997 and has no record of public discipline.