Former Maine lawmaker Robert Kenneth Lindell has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for what authorities have described as one of the worst cases of elder financial abuse they’ve seen in the state.

Kenneth Lindell

Lindell was sentenced Tuesday in Penobscot County Superior Court on 15 criminal counts including theft, securities fraud and income tax evasion for defrauding two elderly widows out of more than $3 million and failing to pay income taxes on his ill-gotten gains, the Maine Office of Securities said. Lindell was convicted of the crimes by a jury on Nov. 7.

The judge also ordered Lindell to pay $750,000 in restitution to his victims, in addition to money already recovered and any money recovered in the future, the office said in a news release.

“This significant sentence recognizes the real gravity and far-reaching impact elder financial exploitation has on victims,” Judith Shaw, administrator of the Maine Office of Securities, said in a release. “Mr. Lindell used his position of trust to groom and prey on his victims and we will not tolerate that from anyone, especially our licensed financial professionals.”

Prosecutors said Lindell began acting as a securities agent for Phyllis Poor of Belfast in the early 2000s and eventually was given Poor’s power of attorney and named co-personal representative of her estate and trustee of accounts for her disabled veteran son. Poor died in 2012.

Lindell used his access to Poor’s finances to write checks to himself and his company from the accounts of Poor’s estate, paying personal expenses with trust and estate money. He also bought, renovated and lived in a home in the California wine country with money from Poor’s accounts.

Lindell also stole from a trust set up for Poor’s son, a disabled veteran who resides in an assisted-living facility in Florida, prosecutors said.

Lindell’s second victim, Gianna Lewis, lives outside Paris and has known Lindell since he was born, prosecutors said. Lindell was the trustee for accounts set up for Lewis’ benefit by her late husband, and Lindell was convicted of writing himself checks from her account and paying his personal expenses with the money.

Prosecutors said Lindell also failed to pay taxes on the money he took from the widows’ accounts and received tax refunds to which he wasn’t entitled.

Lindell lived in Cloverdale, California, before his bail was revoked in May 2018. He still owned property in Frankfort, where he served two terms as a Republican state legislator from 2004 to 2008, when he was defeated in a re-election bid. While in the Legislature, he served on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Experts on elder financial abuse said the Lindell case is unusual because it involves a financial professional.

Typically, it’s family members who steal from the elderly, said Jaye Martin, executive director of Maine Legal Services for the Elderly.

A family member might offer to help an elderly relative pay his or her bills each month, she said, and then steal money once they have access to the older relative’s checking account. Martin said the situation often escalates to where a relative arranges to strip the older relative of the equity in their home or get power of attorney and take possession of the house, because that’s usually an older person’s most valuable asset.

If a professional is involved in elder financial abuse, she said, the impact can be greater because a professional knows where to find and dispose of assets. A professional is also more likely to steal a large amount, Martin said, because they know they could lose their license and face criminal charges if the fraud is exposed. But, she added, many elderly people aren’t aware of the extent of the fraud and are reluctant to report family members to the police.

“The professionals (involved in elder financial abuse) are few and far between, but the amounts, I think, would be stunning if we knew,” she said.

Kathy Baxter, a social worker and director of community services at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, agreed with Martin that anonymous scams and relatives are often the perpetrators when elderly people are defrauded.

“It’s rare that you hear about it happening with a professional,” she said.

And many fraud cases aren’t even reported, Baxter said.

“Most of the time they don’t want to prosecute a family member and there are a lot of cases you don’t hear about it because they don’t want to go forward,” she said.

Victims are often embarrassed that they were taken advantage of and that’s another reason why many cases aren’t reported, Baxter said.

The agency on aging has a program called Money Minders that can help the elderly with budgeting and bill-paying, Baxter said, offering an alternative to relying on family members for help. The program is free for middle- and lower-income seniors.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson


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