The jury trial of a former Maine legislator accused of bilking two elderly widows, one in Belfast and one in France, out of more than $3.5 million and of not paying income taxes began Tuesday at Bangor’s Penobscot Judicial Center.
Robert Kenneth Lindell Jr., 53, of Cloverdale, California, is charged with theft by unauthorized taking, a securities violation in connection with the alleged fraud, three counts of theft of federal income tax funds, and five counts each of intentional evasion of income tax and failure to pay Maine income tax.
Lindell, formerly of Frankfort, has pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts. He has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since May after he violated his bail conditions after being free for a year.
Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein told the jury of six men and eight women, including two alternates, in his opening statement that Lindell, a financial adviser who had offices in Bangor and Belfast, gained the trust of both women and access to their finances. Then, between 2010 and early 2017, he allegedly slowly drained their accounts.
“This case is simple. He made unauthorized payments from their accounts to his own, all to finance his lifestyle,” Bernstein told jurors. “In 2013, he paid $425,000 in cash for a ‘fixer-upper’ house in California wine country. He spent another $400,000 in repairs and upgrades.”
The money he took from the women was not reported in his federal or Maine income tax filings, the prosecutor said.
“Mr. Lindell owes thousands of dollars in back taxes,” Bernstein said, but did not give the jury an exact amount owed in his opening statement.
The Belfast widow died in 2012 at age 92, but Lindell allegedly continued to have access to her finances. He is accused of draining nearly $3 million from her estate, which should have totaled about $5.5 million. He is accused of stealing about half a million dollars from the woman in France, who was a longtime family friend, according to Bernstein. She was scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon with the assistance of an interpreter.
Defense attorney Zachary Brandmeir of Bangor told jurors in his opening statement that Lindell will take the stand and tell them that he did not steal from either woman. In addition, Lindell will testify that while he may have made mistakes in his tax returns, he did not deliberately lie.
“This is about assumption, incompleteness and doubt,” he said. “The only way this case is simple is if you assume the worst of Mr. Lindell. That is what the law tells you not to do.”
Brandmeir said the California house was purchased by one of the Belfast woman’s trusts as an investment and it remained in the trust’s name. The defense attorney also said that many of the payments to his client were management fees that are customary in handling large estates.
The trial is scheduled to end Friday but jury deliberations could go into next week, according to attorneys.
Lindell served in the Maine House of Representatives as a Republican from 2004 to 2006, when he was defeated in his re-election bid.
Lindell’s Maine securities disciplinary record included sanctions in 2002 and 2013. Both actions ended in consent orders, court documents said.
If convicted, Lindell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the most serious charge of Class B theft. He also could be ordered to pay restitution and back taxes.
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