A Waldo County grand jury has indicted a Belfast woman on a theft charge alleging that she stole more than $83,000 from her family's business over the course of four years when it rose Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 12.

The grand jury indicted Lauri J. Dawson, 56, with one count of theft, alleging in the indictment that she "did commit theft by obtaining or exercising unauthorized control over $83,003.35 in U.S. currency" from Scott and Brent MacLeod, who do business as MacLoeod's Furniture in Belfast. The indictment stated Lauri Dawson engaged in the alleged conduct beginning on or about Feb. 1, 2008, and ending on or about Feb. 4, 2012.

Lauri Dawson was arrested on a warrant during the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 9, on the charge of Class B theft, according to court records, and she was released that same morning on $5,000 unsecured bail.

Lauri Dawson is the wife of Belfast lawyer William Dawson, who is under investigation by the Maine Attorney General's Office for alleged "financial exploitation" of two elderly clients.

Family turns to law enforcement

According to previously published reports, the investigation by the Belfast Police Department began last year, when Scott and Brent Macleod, along with local attorney Randy Mailloux, went to the police station to speak with Police Chief Mike McFadden. Mailloux gave McFadden an envelope containing what he described as the results of a forensic audit that was conducted by Norton and Masters Accounting in Rockland. The audit encompassed financial records for the furniture company back to 2008. The Macleods and Mailloux told police the audit showed Lauri Dawson may have embezzled as much as $137,875.36 while working as a bookkeeper for the family business.

Scott Macleod, according to court records, stated he noticed the company was experiencing financial trouble and having difficulty meeting its tax obligations to the state and federal governments.

"He stated to Chief McFadden that at one point his mother had to cover the company financially," stated the affidavit. "Scott [Macleod] also indicated that liens from the state and federal governments have been placed on the property owned by the corporation."

Scott Macleod told police, according to the affidavit, that his mother had recently passed away and that there was a life insurance policy which contained enough money to relieve Lauri Dawson from "her own personal tax issues." Scott Macleod also stated he was aware that Lauri Dawson, who was identified as his sister, owed close to $100,000 to the federal government herself. The caveat to that agreement was that Lauri Dawson would sign over her 15 percent interest in the business as well as any interest in her mother's estate, all of which would have been in exchange for the money associated with the insurance policy.

Court documents state the family had made "numerous attempts" to settle the situation, and Scott Macleod told police that since the family had made that "last best offer" to Lauri Dawson, he, Brent Macleod or Mailloux had not heard back from her in several months.

That is when the family decided to turn the matter over to police, stated the court record, and the Macleods told police the family had no repayment agreement in place with Lauri Dawson and that the business had not received any money from Lauri Dawson.

Through the investigation, court records state, police learned Lauri Dawson and her husband, local attorney William Dawson, were having "serious financial problems and have had multiple liens placed on their property by the [Internal Revenue Service]."

The court record also stated that William Dawson never worked for Macleod Furniture.

Police: Audit 'identified obvious misappropriations'

Court documents detailed transactions the forensic audit turned up, beginning in 2008, when Lauri Dawson allegedly issued herself 56 payroll checks in a year with 53 pay periods, allegedly overpaying herself $1,950 for that year. In 2009, financial records show Lauri Dawson issued herself 79 payroll checks in a 53-pay-period year, an overpayment of $17,550. In 2010, she allegedly issued herself 63 payroll checks in a 53-pay-period year, or $8,376 extra, and in 2011, Lauri Dawson wrote 66 checks to herself in a 52-pay-period year, with the alleged overpayment totaling $9,528. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 4, 2012, Lauri Dawson issued eight paychecks to herself over the course of five pay periods, paying herself an additional $2,010.

"These additional checks were also included in her W-2 as earnings," stated the affidavit. Those additional payroll checks totaled $39,414.

Court documents also state that during that 2008 through 2012 span, 29 checks were issued to either Lauri Dawson or her son, Robert Dawson, that were either not entered into the business' accounting program at all or entered under inappropriate accounts. Those checks totaled $19,558.

"Robert Dawson has worked as a sub-contractor in the past for Macleod's and had been paid properly in the past," stated the court record. "This $19,558 was paid from another inappropriate account and did not appear to be for any work done for Macleod's Furniture."

The court record does not indicate whether Robert Dawson ever received any of those funds, or if he was aware that any checks were issued to him.

From 2008 through 2011, the investigation showed Lauri Dawson issued 10 checks to Bank of America — checks that court records state were written on the company's account with Damariscotta Bank.

"These checks were to cover Lauri Dawson's personal expenses charged on the corporate credit card issued by Bank of America," stated the affidavit, which noted those checks added up to $7,252.51.

From November 2008 through December 2011, the affidavit stated that 25 check had been issued to Lauri Dawson out of the company payroll account that were not entered into the business' accounting program or included in any of her W-2s as earnings. Those checks totaled $13,169.92.

In June 2010, court records state that two checks were also issued to Key Bank, each for $750. One was recorded on the company accounting software as "mortgage" and the second under "notes payable." Lauri Dawson endorsed both checks, but neither of them were applied to any of the company's business accounts.

The affidavit stated there were also two checks written from the company payroll account and issued to the Maine Revenue Service.

"Both had Lauri Dawson's Social Security number written on the memo line — one check in Oct[ober] 2011 and one in Dec[ember] 2011," stated the court record.

Both had been entered into the business accounting program, with one classified as "penalties" and the other listed as "payroll liabilities."

One check in January 2012 was issued to the IRS and was entered into the company accounting program under "penalties," a check that had her husband William Dawson's Social Security number written on the memo line.

The total of those five checks was $3,608.92.

A police review of the audit "identified obvious misappropriations of $83,003.35."

'Financial exploitation' allegations remain under investigation

In May, a Maine Department of Health and Human Services social worker accused William Dawson of financially exploiting two elderly women for which he had served as Power of Attorney, and filed affidavits with the Waldo County Probate Court asking for temporary appointment on behalf of those women. Court records stated Judge Susan Longley issued an interim order that in part barred William Dawson from "writing checks to himself, his firm and/or his family." The hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 5, according to court records.

In an emailed response to an inquiry from The Republican Journal, Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker said the matter has also been turned over to his office.

Late last year, The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar issued a consent order imposing conditions on William Dawson in response to allegations that he mishandled the finances of two elderly clients.

The conditions, according to the consent order, are pending the outcome of an investigation resulting from a grievance complaint the board initiated against William Dawson in October. In the order dated Dec. 16, 2013, the board immediately barred Dawson from acting as power of attorney for any individuals and managing the finances or controlling any client funds.

According to the order, Dawson was additionally required to cooperate with an independent audit — with the auditor to be selected by the board — of Dawson's checking, savings and other bank accounts, "and of all matters in which Attorney Dawson has acted in a fiduciary capacity, including [Interest on Lawyer Trust] accounts, at any time within the last three calendar years."

The order also stated Dawson would comply with the court's order to pay for the audit, and that Dawson must cooperate with the bar counsel's investigation of the grievance complaint itself, which the order stated the board initiated Oct. 11, 2013. The outcome of the matter is pending the completion of the bar counsel probe and a subsequent review from the panel of the grievance commission.

According to the order, the board filed its petition for Dawson's temporary suspension Nov. 21, 2013, a petition that could be deferred if Dawson complies with the Dec. 16 consent order, and pending the outcome of the grievance investigation.

Dawson provided an affidavit to the board, according to the order, in which he swore his client trust account contains only funds related to a special needs trust, funds from dividends related to an estate matter pending distribution and funds related to another estate matter that also await distribution.