BELFAST, Maine — The Belfast lawyer who was sentenced this spring to 30 months in prison for bilking elderly clients of nearly $500,000 has been disbarred from practicing in the state of Maine.
William Dawson also will need to reimburse the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar more than $10,000 for the costs accrued during the disciplinary proceeding, Associate Justice Donald Alexander of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court wrote in his Aug. 1 decision.
But the court declined the board’s request to disbar Dawson for life. The ruling does not indicate when Dawson might be able to reapply to practice law.
Dawson pleaded guilty in March to two counts of felony theft and three counts of failing to pay state income taxes, and he was sentenced to five years in prison with all but two and a half years suspended to be followed by three years of probation.
His theft was uncovered in 2013 when a teller at KeyBank noticed Dawson was writing large checks to himself on at least a weekly basis from the account of 85-year-old Veronica Pendleton of Belfast. The teller alerted her supervisor, and a review of the account was undertaken, as well as that of another customer, 97-year-old Doris Schmidt. Both women have since died.
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant Maine Attorney General Leanne Robbin said that Dawson submitted bills to explain the checks, but she added that the reasons Dawson gave for the billing were “breathtaking.”
In one example, Dawson would bill Pendleton $250 per hour for six or seven hours to go check on her house, pick up her mail and take care of her bills while she was in the nursing home, even though his office was just a one-minute drive away from her home.
In March, Justice Robert Murray ordered Dawson to pay restitution of $385,000 to Pendleton’s estate and $98,000 to Schmidt’s estate.
Dawson had practiced law in Maine since 1989.