A Maine Superior Court justice has denied Claudia Vile’s petition that her lawyer did not provide an adequate defense in a trial that found her guilty in June 2016 of stealing more than $500,000 from the town of Anson.

Viles, a former Anson tax collector, was convicted of a felony and 12 misdemeanor charges after she was found guilty of stealing excise tax money from the town, tampering with public records and not paying income taxes.

Claudia Viles stands as the jury leaves the courtroom to deliberate on the 13 charges against her at Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on June 22, 2016. Viles’ petition that her lawyer did not provide adequate defense was denied recently.

Viles, who had little supervision in her position, stole $500,948 from the town over five years. In her position, Viles was the only person responsible for collecting excise taxes, the local tax paid on motor vehicle registrations.

Through bank deposits and treasurer’s receipts, Viles was able to transfer the money into her possession, making her thefts one of the largest municipal thefts in Maine history.

In her appeal, Viles claimed she was not provided effective legal counsel. She said her lawyer, Walter McKee of Augusta, did not defend her properly.

Viles also claimed the jury was influenced by a newspaper article on display in the hallway of the court that her lawyer did not address.


“There is no evidence to support any such sort of problem occurred here,” Justice Robert Mullen wrote in his decision.

In her petition, Viles also claimed there was no direct evidence of the thefts that she committed, and that thethe jury’s opinion relied on Viles’ reputation for honesty and truthfulness.

Viles, who was in her elected position for 32 years, created her own hours and vacation time. Additionally, town records show she was paid randomly and there was little oversight over the amount of money she requested from town officials or when she received it.

Justice Robert Mullen, the presiding judge at Claudia Viles’ trial, listens as she makes a statement during her sentencing at Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Sept. 2, 2016. Mullen recently denied Viles’ petition arguing her lawyer did not provide her adequate defense.

In his decision, Mullen denied all seven issues raised in Viles’ petition, saying she “has made no showing that … the charges likely deprived her of a fair trial.”

“Due to the failure of (Viles) and her husband to file income tax returns for multiple years, there was little way of showing how and what the family lived on for about a 13-year period,” Mullen wrote. “The family have extensive real estate holdings with a total assessed value of $539,080 for which there is only one lien on record for $46,000.”

Viles has been serving her five-year prison sentence since July 2017. Her sentence included eight years in prison, with three years of probation, and nine months for 12 other charges related to tax fraud and tampering with public documents.

She was also ordered to pay $566,257 in restitution to the town of Anson, which covers the theft of the excise taxes and other financial loses.

“All signs pointed to (Viles) as the person responsible for the missing funds,” Mullen wrote. “There is nothing the petitioner’s counsel can point to that persuade (the court) that trial counsel did anything but a competent job.”

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