SALEM, Mass. — Haverhill lawyer Richard Hayes is charged with stealing $262,434 from a trust intended for the children of his late mother-in-law.
He also faces civil suit filed by three of his mother-in-law's children. They accuse Hayes of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars more in money and real estate from them and their children.
Hayes, 58, who has a law office at 1146 Main St., Haverhill, was arraigned yesterday in Salem Superior Court. He was indicted in July by a grand jury on two counts of larceny over $250 for allegedly stealing the money from the estate of his mother-in-law, Margaret Clark, after her death in November 2009. She was 88.
Hayes is charged with receiving and converting to his own use $262,434 in trust payments to Clark over a 10-month period following her death. Hayes, who pleaded not guilty yesterday, glared at a reporter and refused to speak when asked for comment outside the courthouse. Hayes' lawyer William Delaney refused to comment when reached later at his office.
Judge David Lowy continued the criminal case to Nov. 10 for a pretrial hearing.
A civil suit filed in Lawrence Superior Court by three of Clark's surviving children accuses Hayes of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars more in money and real estate from them and Clark's 11 grandchildren.
Clark's eldest son, Eben Clark of Vineyard Haven, and two daughters, Margaret Towle of Colorado and Elizabeth Clark of Groveland, are suing Hayes and his wife, Catharine Hayes, and their business, Cool Moo Classic Fresh Ice Cream in Haverhill. They are seeking an amount to be determined by the court. Catharine Hayes is Margaret Clark's fourth surviving child.
The lawsuit alleges 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, has cost her other children $542,935.
A hearing in the civil case is scheduled today at 2 p.m.
According to the 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 alleges 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 says Hayes failed to pay taxes owed by Clark for several years that Hayes was in charge of Clark's money and property.
The lawsuit says 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 says.
The complaint also alleges Hayes placed property owned by Clark at 25 Farm Pond Road in Oaks Bluff into a trust controlled by him. The suit says Clark wanted that property put into a trust to benefit her 11 grandchildren. Documents in the case say 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 says.
The suit also says 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."
The suit says the children believe Wells Fargo plans to soon distribute the remaining assets of Clark's trust to her four children in the amount of $1.1 million each. It asks a judge to hold Catharine Clark's share to pay any damages awarded to Clark's other children as a result of the suit.
According to the lawsuit, Wells Fargo referred Hayes conduct to local authorities in Philadelphia, who referred the matter to the Essex District Attorney's Office. That office is prosecuting the criminal case here.
According to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, Hayes has practiced law since 1997 and has no record of discipline. The website Legal HelpMate says Hayes specializes in litigation and personal injury matters.
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