By BEA LEWIS for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A Center Harbor man charged with looting the investment accounts of his terminally ill father rejected a plea deal on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to stand trial in March.
Keith Fitzgerald, 51, of 166 Follett Road, was indicted in December 2015 on five counts of theft by unauthorized taking and one count of receiving stolen property in connection with his alleged abuse of a power of attorney granted by his father Clifford Fitzgerald Jr., who died of liver cancer at age 79 on Sept. 15, 2010.
Last fall, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office charged that Fitzgerald had shuffled money from accounts jointly titled to himself and his father, into accounts he exclusively controlled.
Fitzgerald; his attorney, Robert Hunt; and the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Jesse O'Neill, appeared in Belknap County Superior Court Wednesday morning for what was scheduled as a plea and sentencing hearing. But after the trio met in chambers with Judge Peter H. Fauver, Hunt confirmed that his client had declined the prosecutor's
offer, and is prepared to take the case to a jury.
Each of the felony charges are potentially punishable by a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison and up to a $4,000 fine upon conviction.
O'Neill, who is assigned to the Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Bureau declined to disclose the terms of the rejected settlement, but confirmed the defendant is readying for trial.
During a July hearing, O'Neill estimated the trial would last 10 to 12 days as the case involves a series of financial transactions that took place over a three to four-month period, requiring testimony from multiple witnesses.
Fitzgerald has remained free on $10,000 personal recognizance bail on the condition he not have any contact with siblings Clifford Fitzgerald III, Hope Fitzgerald, Heather Fitzgerald or Alexandra Dodwell.
According to an affidavit filed last fall, an investigator with the New Hampshire Department of Justice alleged Fitzgerald was allegedly already accessing his father's $1.4 million in assets in May 2010, transferred $1 million to a Wells Fargo account, and then set up multiple accounts and had the portfolio summaries sent to his Center
The state charges that Fitzgerald listed his father's address as 89 Tuttle Road, a vacant lot owned by Fitzgerald Investments LLC. Keith Fitzgerald is listed as a managing member of that limited liability company which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, listing $570,000 in creditor debt.
The elder Fitzgerald, who had a distinguished career in investment banking, had most recently resided in Sanibel, FL., before his death in New York, where he was undergoing treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The curator of the estate previously won a $767,000 civil judgment against Keith Fitzgerald, after 4th Circuit Probate Court Judge Christina O'Neill ruled that the defendant breached his fiduciary duties to his father and had acted in bad faith. He was also ordered to pay $51,583.33 in attorney fees and costs.
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