ROCKLAND, Maine — A local attorney who has practiced law in Maine for nearly 40 years has surrendered her license amid allegations that she mismanaged an elderly client’s finances and submitted a false application for the woman to receive state assistance.
Attorney Anita Volpe had been accused by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar of professional misconduct for her handling of the finances of her mother-in-law, Corine Hendrick of Camden. In April, the attorney for the Board asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to take disciplinary action against Volpe.
On Aug. 30, Associate Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andrew Mead accepted Volpe’s surrender of her law license.
Volpe said Thursday she was upset that information about the case was released, saying a judge had impounded the affidavits.
“I’m trying to do the best I can. In my opinion, it was resolved,” Volpe said.
This is not the first time Volpe has faced disciplinary action from the Board of Overseers. In 2010, as a result of an investigation by the board, it was determined that Volpe had violated several rules of the bar involving a client’s custody of a child in a divorce case.
In that case, Associate Justice Ellen Gorman of the state supreme court ordered the Volpe’s law license be suspended for 30 days unless she completed six hours of continuing legal education. According to information posted on the Overseers’ website, Volpe successfully completed the professional ethics training by January 2011.
Corine Hendrick’s grandson, Shane Hendrick of Camden, said he does not believe that allowing Volpe to surrender her license to practice law is sufficient punishment. No criminal charges have been filed.
In his Aug. 30 ruling, Justice Mead ordered that all affidavits filed with the court on the Volpe case be impounded.The BDN, however, was provided with nearly 100 pages of documents filed with the Board on behalf of the family that filed the complaint. The allegations in those documents are repeated in the information filed by Deputy Bar Counsel Aria Eee to the high court.
The allegations include that Volpe applied for MaineCare assistance on Corine Hendrick’s behalf despite knowing she did not qualify, transferred her client’s money into her own account, and wrote nearly $65,000 in checks to herself or cash from her client’s account.
Volpe’s attorney Toby Dilworth of Portland said the allegations against her are just that — allegations.
“They are not facts. Ms. Volpe was prepared to defend against them. However, given that she was planning to wind down her practice after almost 39 years as a lawyer, she decided to surrender her license rather than engage further in this intra-family dispute,” Dilworth said.
Volpe was granted power of attorney over Corine Hendrick’s finances in 2012 when the woman began showing signs of dementia. Hendrick had been living with her daughter Sandra Carr in Virginia at that time. The daughter died later that year, and Hendrick moved back to her home in Camden, where Shane Hendrick and his wife cared for her.
The documents submitted to the Board and by the Board to the Law Court indicate that Corine Hendrick’s bills were not paid on time and that, as a result, she lost home health services and a day-respite program. Volpe routinely responded that Corine Hendrick was poor and that Volpe had to pay some of the bills herself.
When her grandson and his wife could not no longer care for Corine Hendrick at home, they sought to put her into a nursing facility in Camden but were told she did not have sufficient funds. The woman was then placed in a nursing facility in Augusta that Shane Hendrick said was very low quality.
Corine Hendrick died on Dec. 20, 2014 at age 92 after several weeks in the nursing facility.
The Bar pointed out in its filing with the court that Volpe had applied for MaineCare coverage for Hendrick but that the application she filed with the state included “material misstatements of fact.” According to documents filed with the Bar, Volpe had claimed that Hendrick had few assets when in fact she was too well off to be eligible for MaineCare. In addition, Volpe failed to report to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in the MaineCare application that she had helped Hendrick transfer ownership of her Camden home and a camp in Hope to her grandchildren Shane and Rachel Hendrick.
Volpe also failed to disclose that Corine Hendrick received a $125,000 inheritance after her daughter died in 2012.
After Hendrick died, the grandchildren asked for a full accounting of Volpe’s management of their grandmother’s finances and assets. She informed them that the estate totaled $120,000.
Volpe then filed a petition in February 2015 with the Knox County Probate Court to be the personal representative of her mother-in-law’s estate but the grandchildren objected. Volpe withdrew the request and within a week the grandchildren had retained attorney John Sanford of Camden to be the estate’s representative.
In a February 2015 letter to Board of Overseers, Sanford indicated that some of the money from Carr’s estate went into Volpe’s personal account. Sanford told the board that bank records showed that from 2012 through 2015 Volpe had written 18 checks to herself totaling $29,009 and wrote an additional 16 checks to cash totaling $35,208. The total value of the 34 checks was approximately $65,000.
Volpe told the Board that she had paid herself $18,000 in legal fees, according to the information filed with the court.
When Sanford demanded that Volpe put any remaining money from Hendrick’s estate into a new bank account he had set up for the estate. Volpe deposited $119,658 from her client trust account to the new Corine Hendrick estate account.
The bar counsel stated in the April court filing that it was clear that discrepancies over Corine Hendrick’s finances were unresolved.
“As such, the Board is concerned that Attorney Volpe likely utilized other client funds in her trust account to issue the $119,658.54 check she paid to Ms. Hendrick’s estate,” the deputy bar counsel wrote in the document.
Jacqueline Rogers, the executive director of the Maine Board of Overseers, said she could not comment on whether the Board has referred the matter to prosecutors.