May 28, 2020
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Judge dismisses 2 of 11 charges in bank lawsuit over trustee’s $3.5M theft

Courtesy Penobscot County sheriff's office | BDN
Courtesy Penobscot County sheriff's office | BDN
Robert Kenneth Lindell.

A judge in the state’s business court is allowing a lawsuit to move forward against a Bar Harbor bank after dismissing some claims embezzlement victims filed against the bank.

This summer the heirs of former Belfast resident Phyllis Poor sued Bar Harbor Trust Services, a division of Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, over allegations that the bank did not adequately safeguard Poor’s funds from Robert Kenneth Lindell Jr., a former state legislator who served as trustee of Poor’s estate. Lindell was convicted last fall of embezzling more than $3.5 million from Poor’s accounts and from another woman in France whose finances he also oversaw.

The bank filed a motion to dismiss the claims, and on Wednesday a judge issued a split order on the motion. Judge Michael Duddy dismissed two counts in the 11-count complaint — one claim of fraudulent conveyance and another alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. The nine other counts, which range from breach of fiduciary duty to civil conspiracy, will be allowed to move forward.

Attorneys representing the heirs of Poor, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, have argued that Bar Harbor Trust Services did not properly oversee Lindell’s activities. The attorneys also allege that once Bar Harbor Trust Services learned that Lindell was suspected of stealing from Poor’s estate, employees tried to cover up what had happened.

Attorney Sarah Gilbert, who represents Poor’s heirs, did not respond Saturday to a request for comment.

The bank, through a statement released Saturday by its attorney Eric Wycoff, said that with Duddy’s decision, it now will have the opportunity to fully respond to the remaining allegations.

“Bar Harbor Trust Services feels very strongly that at all times it has acted appropriately and looks forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that it performed as it was required to and that the claims alleged against it by the plaintiffs are meritless,” said Joseph Schmitt, the bank’s chief marketing officer.

After being convicted last fall of theft and tax evasion, Lindell was sentenced in April to serve 10 years in prison, the maximum sentence for theft in Maine. In sentencing Lindell, Superior Court Justice William Anderson described his conduct as “outrageous.”

The former legislator wrote checks from the trust accounts to support his “lavish lifestyle,” including the purchase and renovation of a house in California wine country, and credit card bills for expensive travel and dining in the U.S. and Europe, Anderson said. He also paid for his child’s private high school and college tuition with stolen funds.

Anderson ordered Lindell to pay $750,000 in restitution to the Poor trusts and to the second victim. The judge based that amount on what he estimated Lindell could afford.

Lindell, a former Frankfort resident, served in the Maine House of Representatives as a Republican from 2004 to 2006, when he was defeated in his re-election bid.

BDN reporter Judy Harrison contributed to this report.


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