WISCASSET — Former attorney Anita Volpe was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for stealing more than $1 million from three elderly and disabled clients.
Judge Daniel Billings sentenced the 76-year-old Tenants Harbor woman in Lincoln County Superior Court on three counts of theft.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin filed a memorandum in Knox County Court in October 2019 seeking a seven-year prison sentence for Volpe. At the March 4 hearing, Robbin asked for a 10-year suspended sentence all but five, followed by three years probation.
“Anita Volpe is the Bernie Madoff of Maine,” the prosecutor said.
Judge Billings imposed a 10-year sentence with all but 18 months suspended followed by three years probation. The judge cited Volpe’s age and health in imposing less than the prosecution wanted. Volpe was treated for bladder cancer but is in remission.
The judge also noted that Volpe had the support of his community. Around 20 family and friends attended the hearing to show their support for the Tenants Harbor woman. They included other lawyers and his pastor.
Volpe pleaded guilty on October 18, 2021 and was released pending sentencing.
Volpe was charged in March 2019 with three counts of felony theft, two counts of Class B misuse of entrusted property and one count of Class C misuse of entrusted property. Charges of misuse of entrusted property were dismissed on Monday in exchange for guilty pleas.
Volpe was represented by attorney Leonard Sharon.
The case, like most in the court system, had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and court-imposed restrictions.
Volpe stole $553,225 from Mary Webb; $490,416 from Patricia Wakefield; and over $100,000 from Corine Hendrick who was her stepmother. Judge Billings ordered Volpe to pay approximately $1 million in restitution to the Webb and Wakefield estates. Her attorney said she was willing to pay $65,000 in restitution.
Volpe had stolen from the Webb and Wakefield estates to pay off the Herrick estate. The prosecutor said that without a whistleblower cashier at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, Volpe might have gotten away with his crimes.
Volpe served as power of attorney for all three women.
The longtime local lawyer used the stolen money to pay off personal credit card debt and to buy real estate, including a plot adjoining her home in St. George. Volpe also used some of the money to repair his Main Street law office in Rockland and to repair his St. George home. The money was also used to pay property taxes for a property she owned in Florida and for a vehicle for her business partner. One payment from Webb’s account was $2,500 for a wood carving from an art gallery Volpe owned in Rockland.
Volpe also received annuities intended for Wakefield, a retired army lieutenant colonel, after the woman’s death. The prosecutor noted that Wakefield intended his estate to go to a private school which provided him with a scholarship after his father’s death. The money was intended to provide scholarships for future generations of students.
“That would have been his legacy,” Robbin told the judge.
Volpe apologized in court, saying she still doesn’t know why she stole the money.
” I did not think. I was driven by my ego to look successful and get the love I wanted,” Volpe said.
The prosecutor said courts tend to treat white-collar criminals more leniently because they look like the people deciding their fate.
Hendrick died on December 20, 2014, at age 92, after several weeks in a nursing facility in Augusta that her grandchildren described as very poor. The family had wanted to put her in Quarry Hill, but were unable due to lack of funds.
The Maine Supreme Court accepted the remission of Volpe’s license in lieu of disciplinary action in August 2016. Judge Andrew Mead confiscated all documents related to the case, but Hendrick’s grandson, Shane Hendrick , of Camden, released the documents in 2016.
Volpe had originally served as the personal representative for Hendrick’s estate after Hendrick’s death, but stepped down before the estate was probated. She repaid the Hendrick estate after giving up her lawyer’s license, but the bar’s board of supervisors were unaware that the money had been stolen from Webb and Wakefield.
The thefts from other women occurred in multiple banking transactions over a period of years.
Volpe was called to the Maine Bar in 1977.
The parents of a Pittsfield man killed in a standoff had previously expressed concern over his behavior