Patricia Merz and Christopher Mcguigan Convicted for Embezzling from Mother’s Bennington Estate
The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that a federal jury in Burlington on Friday found Patricia Merz, 57, of Niskayuna, New York, guilty on charges of conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen money, wire fraud and forgery after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court. The week before, Christopher McGuigan, 52, of Rutland, Merz’s brother and co-defendant, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. Chief Judge Christina Reiss has released both defendants on conditions pending their sentencings, which have been scheduled for early next year.
Earlier this year, a federal grand jury in Rutland returned an indictment charging the defendants with conspiracy, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen money and forgery. According to the indictment, the defendants’ mother, Annelise McGuigan, died in Bennington in 2009. She left no will. In late 2009, the Bennington probate court appointed Merz and McGuigan as co-administrators of their mother’s estate. As administrators, they had a legal duty to prepare an inventory of estate assets, pay the estate’s debts and render an accounting to the court.
According to the indictment, Annelise McGuigan owned a house in Rupert at the time of her death. With the court’s permission, Merz and McGuigan sold the house in 2010, a sale which netted the estate about $180,000. Although Merz and McGuigan had received claims against the estate totaling more than $88,000—debts incurred for funeral expenses, property maintenance, credit card expenses and nursing home and medical care—Merz and McGuigan never paid any of those obligations. Instead, they used virtually all of the estate funds to benefit themselves, expending all the estate funds within about one year. Merz withdrew about $50,000 from the estate account by forging McGuigan’s signatures on numerous banking withdrawal slips.
Merz faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. McGuigan faces up to five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Their actual sentences will be determined with reference to federal sentencing guidelines.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Merz is represented by Federal Public Defender Michael Desautels. McGuigan is represented by Robert Behrens. The prosecutors are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory Waples and Nikolas Kerest.