From May 1, 2007 to Nov. 20, 2007, Hale forged Lacey’s name to at least 15 other checks payable to himself and totalling $55,000.
“It is apparent from a review of the signatures on the checks that Hale forged Lacey’s signature. In December 2007, a mere $52.94 remained in her account,” Buccheri wrote in his report.
Hale’s relationship with Aunt Betty and a dispute over wills she executed was exposed in a July 24, 2011 Sunday Eagle-Tribune article.
When Lacey died in 2007, her surrogate family members were shocked to learn Hale was named sole beneficiary of her estate, including her Andover Street home.
Hale is the son of a man Lacey dated in the 1950s.
The will leaving everything to Hale was written eight months after another will written by Lacey which left everything to James Wareing, his mother Joan McQuire and his two twin sisters, Denise Clegg and Diane Forrester, who are all Lawrence natives.
Both wills were prepared by a longtime acquaintance of Hale, lawyer Robert Kelley, who was previously the Northern Essex Register of Deeds. Kelley and Hale were also drinking buddies, according to court papers.
Wareing and his family couldn’t believe Lacey had left her house and money to Hale, a man they said she distrusted and disliked because he badgered her for money.
Judge Mary Ann Sahagian didn’t believe it either when the wills were contested in Probate Court. On July 7, 2011, Sahagian threw out the Hale will and approved the earlier will. Sahagian also referred her findings to the district attorney’s office for a criminal investigation.
The checks, which Buccheri would refer to in his report last week, caused Sahagian to doubt Hale’s claims on the estate.
The child of Lithuanian immigrants, Elizabeth married William Lacey in 1939. They had two children who died in a house fire on Jan. 1, 1948. The Lacey’s divorced in 1953.
Lacey owned a home at 418 Andover St, which was worth $175,000 at the time of her death. She had another $170,000 in her savings and checking accounts.
Bryan Kerman, the Methuen attorney representing the Wareing and the McGuire families, declined comment for this story.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.