Despite assurances made in court Monday, lawyer Edward W. Vincent Jr. had not made restitution of more than $600,000 in missing client funds, as of late in the afternoon, Wednesday, April 13.
But, yesterday, April 14, a deal had been completed. According to court documents and land records filed Thursday, two civil suits, charging that Mr. Vincent had failed to disburse funds from his law office account to parties in separate real estate transactions, have been dismissed.
All attachments and liens on Mr. Vincent’s property and bank accounts, imposed by the court at the request of the complainants in the civil suits, had been released.
According to land records, yesterday land on Old Oyster Pond Road in Edgartown, owned by a trust belonging to Mr. Vincent’s wife, has been encumbered with a mortgage for $700,000 to Michael Kidder, an Edgartown resident and developer.
Edgartown police arrested the attorney at his South Water Street house April 8. Mr. Vincent appeared at the Dukes County Courthouse Monday for arraignment in Edgartown District Court, but the judge allowed a motion by Mr. Vincent’s attorney to postpone the arraignment for more than a month.
Mr. Vincent was to be arraigned on charges of fiduciary embezzlement and larceny. With his motion seeking postponement, Mr. Vincent’s attorney promised restitution, “within the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Though assurances of restitution have fallen short twice before, Vineyard Haven attorney Geoghan Coogan, who represents the sellers in one of the disputed real estate transactions, expects a resolution soon. His clients found out something was amiss when they got a notice that their mortgages were not paid off with proceeds of their home sale.
“It is my understanding that there is some type of loan transaction scheduled for the next day or so that will enable my clients’ mortgage payoffs to be made,” Mr. Coogan said late Wednesday. “I do not know the details but do have some level of confidence that this will occur.”
The Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and First American Title Insurance Company have both filed civil lawsuits against Mr. Vincent, alleging he failed to turn over substantial sums entrusted to him in real estate transactions. In each case, a judge ordered Mr. Vincent’s personal and law office bank accounts frozen, and attached property he owns.
The court also gave attorneys for First American permission to audit Mr. Vincent’s accounts, to determine if there are any other funds missing. They declined comment this week on their lawsuit.
“It’s our policy not to comment,” attorney James Fox, of the Boston law firm Bernkopf Goodman said Tuesday.
According to several attorneys involved in the case, restitution was expected last Friday, then on Tuesday.
“We’re hoping to resolve the matter upon receipt of the payment Mr. Vincent is hoping to arrange. I understand from Mr. Vincent’s attorney that is imminent,” attorney David Mack said Tuesday. Mr. Mack represents the MSPCA in a civil lawsuit against Mr. Vincent. “If restitution is made as planned, we would dismiss the complaint.”
Mr. Vincent’s office declined comment and said he has not been in the office. His attorney, Roger Matthews of the Boston law firm Denner Pellegrino, did not return requests by phone and email for comment.
A hearing in the civil lawsuit filed by First American, postponed twice in the past week, is scheduled for Suffolk Superior Court today.
The civil lawsuits are separate from the criminal charges Mr. Vincent faces. Any agreement to dismiss the civil action cannot end the criminal charges.
However, if Mr. Vincent’s clients recover their money, the restitution may be a factor in the way the prosecutor pursues the criminal case and in deciding what penalties to seek from the court.
Arrest but no arraignment
Edgartown Police arrested Mr. Vincent at his house on South Water Street in Edgartown Friday afternoon. They took Mr. Vincent immediately to the Dukes County Jail. After a review by a bail commissioner, Mr. Vincent was released on personal recognizance. As a condition of bail, he surrendered his passport. He left the jail at 6:15 pm Friday evening.
The arrest followed a criminal investigation opened by Edgartown police on March 9, after receiving information from attorneys representing the MSPCA. They alleged in their civil lawsuit that Mr. Vincent failed to turn over more than $190,000 entrusted to him at a real-estate closing.
The charge of fiduciary embezzlement carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.
Mr. Vincent was scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Edgartown District Court on charges of larceny of more than $250 and fiduciary embezzlement. But, in the latest twist to a story that has perplexed many in the close-knit Edgartown community and Mr. Vincent’s professional associates, the arraignment was continued to May 19.
Richard Piazza, the attorney representing Mr. Vincent before Associate Justice Herman J. Smith Jr. Monday, asked to delay the arraignment. The Cape and Islands district attorney’s office did not object.
“Restitution should be taken care of within the next 24 to 48 hours,” Mr. Piazza, a former assistant district attorney, told the court. Judge Smith agreed to postpone the arraignment until May 19.
Mr. Piazza declined further comment after the hearing. He represented Mr. Vincent only for Monday’s hearing. According to Mr. Piazza, well-known criminal defense attorney Robert Jubinville will represent Mr. Vincent in the criminal case.
Judge Smith also removed default warrants against Mr. Vincent. Police sought the default warrants when they applied for the criminal complaint, because they had some doubt whether Mr. Vincent would appear in court.
Mr. Vincent’s wife and adult daughter were at the courthouse, sitting in the front row of the courtroom’s visitor seating during the brief hearing. Mr. Vincent entered and left the courtroom by a rear entrance not usually accessible to defendants.
Mr. Vincent’s short journey through the legal system was unlike most of the arraignments and hearings in district court. Arraignments are occasionally postponed, but more routinely, the court clerk reads the charges and enters not-guilty pleas for the defendant. Usually the judge or the clerk continues the case to a later date, so the defendant has time to arrange bail, hire a lawyer, or negotiate a plea, for example.
In this case the request to continue the arraignment was made to Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard. She said she agreed to the delay because Mr. Jubinville was tied up with another criminal trial, and the Commonwealth does not view Mr. Vincent as a flight risk.
In nearly all arraignments defendants sit on the wooden benches in the rear half of the courtroom, or in the prisoners’ dock to the right of the judge’s bench if they are in custody. The court officers instruct defendants to stand and approach the bar when the clerk calls their name for arraignment.
The bar, a long rail that separates the front of the courtroom from the rear, is both a physical and figurative divider. In the sometimes archaic custom and language of the courtroom, only attorneys are allowed “before the bar.”
Mr. Vincent waited for his hearing in the law library, off the rear lobby of the courtroom. He entered the courtroom through a rear door reserved for lawyers and police officers. He sat before the bar, at the side of the judge’s bench. Though he appeared as a defendant, not a lawyer, he sat in seats where lawyers usually sit to wait until their client’s case comes before the judge, in the same place where for many years, he has often waited to represent his clients.
Across the courtroom, two defendants sat shackled hand and foot with chains, under close guard by the court officers. One defendant was there on a charge of driving without a license, the other on a charge of stealing approximately $85,000. Several other defendants sat in the seating area at the rear of the courtroom awaiting their arraignments.
When the clerk called Mr. Vincent’s name for arraignment, he stood up, took a few steps toward the front of the bench and faced the judge. He did not speak during the short hearing. After his arraignment was continued, the judge left the courtroom, and Mr. Vincent exited through a rear door.
No return call
Police applied for an arrest warrant in Edgartown District Court Friday. The warrant was issued at 4:16 pm following consultation between the Edgartown police and the office of the Cape and Islands district attorney.
“We made the call to the attorney general’s office after reviewing the case throughout the week,” Edgartown Police Chief Tony Bettencourt told The Times in a telephone conversation Friday. “Putting the information together, we realized it was more a local case that we should probably handle. We concluded our investigation today.”
In his report on the investigation, Edgartown Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby described several unsuccessful attempts to reach Mr. Vincent at his office and on his mobile phone.
“On the morning of March 17, 2011, I observed Vincent operating his vehicle in the Edgartown School parking lot,” Det. Sgt. Dolby wrote in his report. “I approached his vehicle and asked him to stop. I am familiar with Vincent, and I am quite sure he knows who I am, however, I introduced myself as Det. Chris Dolby, and asked why he had not returned any of my calls. He did not respond. I advised him that I would like to discuss an issue with him that was brought to my attention by another attorney. I told him that I felt the school parking lot was not an appropriate place and asked that he call my office so we could discuss the matter. He said he would do so. Vincent never called. A day or two later, I called his office again and spoke with a male who advised me that Vincent was away on vacation. I asked the male when he would be back and he said he did not know.”
Chief Bettencourt said the investigation did not yield any information about the missing funds.
“We didn’t get any statements from him, so we don’t have any idea where the money went, where it is,” Mr. Bettencourt said.