SALEM, Mass. — A Haverhill lawyer who stole more than a quarter million dollars from two family trusts when his mother-in-law died was spared time behind bars because the family did not want to cause any more pain to his wife and children.
Richard Hayes, 60, received a 21/2 year suspended jail term and five years of probation under a plea agreement accepted yesterday by Salem, Mass., Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta.
Hayes, who lives on East Broadway in Haverhill and has a law office at 1146 Main St., Unit B, also agreed to surrender his law license immediately.
Hayes admitted that for months after the death of his mother-in-law in 2009 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 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 say the total loss was $262,000.
Instead, said prosecutor Jennifer Kirshenbaum, he continued “stonewalling” family members who were urging him to begin probate proceedings for the estate of Margaret “Peggy” Clark.
The prosecutor said the money from the trusts went into Hayes’ law firm and client funds accounts as well as toward general expenses.
When Cornetta asked Hayes whether the facts read by the prosecutor were true, Hayes paused for several seconds. “Yes, your honor,” he answered.
His attorney, William Delaney, did not address the court, other than to note that Hayes was admitting only to conduct alleged after the death of his mother-in-law, and not before.
Hayes has also separately 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.
A lawyer who represented the three children in the civil suit, Harold Jacobi III of the Lexington law firm Jacobi & Chamberlan, said yesterday was a day of “great sadness for the Clark family because of the personal fall of Richard Hayes, their brother-in-law.”