PORTLAND, Maine — A former nurse at Brunswick and Lewiston hospitals pleaded not guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court on Tuesday to bilking an elderly couple out of $274,000 in an effort to finance a “boutique” senior housing complex in downtown Brunswick.
Amy McLellan, 61, of Brunswick pleaded not guilty to misuse of entrusted property of a vulnerable person more than $10,000 and theft by unauthorized taking of more than $10,000, both Class B offenses for which she faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors charged McLellan with befriending a then-92-year-old man suffering from Parkinson’s disease while he was a patient at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she worked as a nurse, then convincing him to give her power of attorney and, ultimately, to drain his savings account to allow her to finance The McLellan complex on Cumberland Street in Brunswick.
Since purchasing the building for just more than $1 million in August 2016, McLellan has renovated the former Skofield House nursing home — and original Brunswick Hospital — at the corner of Cumberland and Union streets into The McLellan, an upscale senior living complex with on-site skilled nursing care.
After receiving a report from an employee of McLellan’s, Brunswick police and the Financial Abuse Specialist Team of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services began an investigation. In October 2017, Brunswick police seized computers and documents from McLellan’s apartment at the complex.
Brunswick police escorted the couple from the facility and to a Portland elderly housing complex on Oct. 26, 2016, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege McLellan stole $274,000 from the couple, but a civil case, since settled, alleged the actual amount was more than $588,000.
In a Dec. 24, 2017, affidavit, the victim wrote that while he was hospitalized for Parkinson’s disease and “delirium” in the winter of 2015-2016, McLellan allegedly “persuaded” him to sign a general durable power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for health care naming McLellan as his attorney-in-fact.
Three days later, again at her behest, he allegedly cashed in savings bonds and paid her $200,000, followed two weeks later by another $200,000. Later that year, he allegedly paid her $50,000 in July, $74,000 in December and $14,250 on Feb. 8, 2017, for a total of $588,250.
“Amy was my nurse and she befriended me,” the man wrote. “Amy told me she needed those monies to develop and operate The McLellan.”
The victim’s wife told police that her husband had been “in love” with McLellan and that she had seen McLellan kiss him on the lips, according to an affidavit.
Brunswick police wrote in an affidavit that McLellan took out a mortgage from Norway Savings Bank for $1.6 million in August 2016. Police alleged that she used the initial $200,000 from the victims as collateral for the mortgage.
The civil case was settled Jan. 30, 2018, with conditions that require “certain sums of money to be paid by the defendant to the plaintiffs.”
The victims’ attorney, Dan Stevens, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Following Tuesday’s arraignment, McLellan had no comment.
Her attorney, Kristine Hanly, said she would characterize the charges as “a misunderstanding.”
“We look forward to thoroughly challenging the allegations in court,” Hanly wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “In the meantime, Amy is focused on continuing to support the vibrant community of residents that live at The McLellan.”
Hanly said The McLellan is now full, with a waiting list.
McLellan was released on conditions, including that any financial contracts she enters into with anyone older than age 65 be vetted by an attorney.
She is next scheduled to appear in court Dec. 20.
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A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that McLellan is prohibited from entering into financial contracts with anyone older than 65.