ELLSWORTH — The trial of a Trenton woman accused of theft from an elderly man with dementia began Wednesday in Hancock County Superior Court.
Kathleen Prunier allegedly committed theft by misleading a Trenton man with dementia that the property she bought from him was valued at far less than its assessed value. She was indicted on the theft charge following an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
In opening statements, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who is chief of the financial crimes division, described the deal Prunier made with the seller in 2014. He died last month at the age of 85.
Prunier, who was friends with the man, bought her 5.27-acre property with a right-of-way to the shore for $4,000 with a payment plan where she would pay $49.38 per month and no interest. The property is valued for tax purposes by the town at $74,700, Robbin said.
“How was she able to do this? It was like taking candy from a baby,” Robbin said, explaining that Prunier took advantage of the victim’s dementia.
Robbin said Prunier drew up the contract herself.
“She picked a day when she knew [the man’s] caretaker would not be around and drove him to Carol Walsh’s house.”
Carol Walsh is a notary public and administrative assistant for the town of Trenton.
At Walsh’s home, both parties signed the contract, which Walsh notarized. Robbin said the elderly man’s attorney was not made aware of the sale.
In her opening statements, Prunier’s attorney, Dawn Corbett, said her client and the man had talked many times about the property in question. He wanted to give her the property as a gift, but Prunier declined, preferring to buy the land, she said.
Corbett claimed that the $74,700 assessment was for the man’s entire property, not just for the land her client bought. The actual value is between $7,900 and $8,000, she said, explaining the problem lies with how the sale was recorded at the registry of deeds.
The attorney general’s investigation “focused on the full value,” she told the court.
The bench trial is scheduled to end Friday.
Another woman, Lisa Harriman of Mariaville, is facing a theft charge for allegedly taking money from the same man. According to her October 2016 indictment, she, without authorization, took control of cash in excess of $10,000 during the period between November 2012 and July 2015. Harriman’s case has not been scheduled for trial.