The family of the late Daniel Lilley is accusing a former bookkeeper of embezzling more than $850,000 from his law firm over a little more than four years.

A lawsuit alleges that Jaime Butler, the bookkeeper for Lilley’s Portland law firm, repeatedly wrote checks to herself totaling $844,000 and also diverted $12,000 in cash that was intended for the firm.

Cumberland County Court on April 24 issued an attachment order on Butler’s assets, preventing her from moving them out of state or otherwise concealing them if the lawsuit succeeds.

No one answered the door at Butler’s Falmouth house Thursday. The case file doesn’t indicate that she has hired a lawyer or filed a response to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by Walter F. McKee, who heads an Augusta law firm, said the alleged embezzlement was discovered this spring by Elaine Lilley, Daniel Lilley’s daughter-in-law.

Elaine Lilley filed an affidavit in which she said she was going over the firm’s books after Daniel Lilley’s death in March at age 79. In the affidavit, Elaine Lilley said she was going over the accounts with Lilley’s widow, Annette Lilley, because the lawyer’s death was unexpected and they wanted to get a handle on his personal and professional finances.

Elaine Lilley said she is familiar with business accounting because she handles the books for a marina she owns with her husband, Daniel Lilley’s son Daniel. As she went through the books, she found checks written to different people and in different amounts than Butler had described, which prompted her to go through more records. Lilley said in her affidavit that she found dozens of non-payroll checks issued to Butler and that Daniel Lilley’s signature on the checks appeared to be forged. In addition, some of the checks were supposedly written and signed by Daniel Lilley in Maine during a time when he was out of state, Elaine Lilley said.

According to Elaine Lilley, the embezzled amounts totaled nearly $77,000 in 2013; more than $220,000 in 2014; $288,350 in 2015; nearly $240,000 in 2016 and $15,656 in January and February this year. One of the 2017 checks, Lilley’s affidavit said, was issued after Daniel Lilley was hospitalized in late February and wasn’t able to communicate.

McKee said Thursday that Butler issued herself “dozens of checks” in some months and that the alleged embezzlement began almost immediately after she was hired as the law firm’s bookkeeper in early 2013. Monthly totals ranged from $1,000 in January 2013 to $34,000 in December 2015, according to an accounting in the suit.

In her affidavit, Elaine Lilley said Butler was evasive when asked about the firm’s accounts and the location of financial records.

The suit also said that Elaine Lilley asked Butler to go with her to the law firm’s post office box because of questions about unpaid bills. Elaine Lilley said Butler tried to hide much of the mail from her, saying it “was from ‘the court,’ ” but Lilley said it was clear to her the mail was mostly bills or financial documents.

Butler was fired in April, according to the suit.

Daniel Lilley was Maine’s highest-profile lawyer, perhaps best known for his successful defense in 1990 of Jackie Bevins of Ogunquit, who was acquitted of murder despite having shot her husband 15 times – so many times she had to reload the gun to continue shooting. Lilley argued that battered wife syndrome drove Bevins to shoot her husband.

He also won an acquittal for Tony DiMillo, owner of a popular Portland restaurant, who was accused of tax evasion in 1985.

However, another more recent high-profile client, Mark Strong Sr., who was accused of running a Kennebunk prostitution operation with a Zumba instructor, was found guilty, as was Linda Dolloff, who was convicted of attempted murder for beating her husband nearly to death with a softball bat and then shooting herself in the hip to buttress a claim that someone broke into their Standish home and assaulted them.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com