Ellsworth attorney charged with stealing from deceased client

The exterior of Christopher Whalley’s law office in Ellsworth, including the jambs which once bore the law office’s sign. Photo by Kate Cough.

A Hancock County grand jury on February 9 issued an indictment against disbarred Ellsworth attorney Christopher Whalley, who accused him of stealing from the estate of a deceased client.

Whalley faces charges of theft by misapplication, which is a Class B felony, according to Danna Hayes, a spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General’s office prosecuting the case. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 plus redress.

Christopher Walley.

“The state alleges that Mr. Whalley, in his capacity as attorney and personal representative of a deceased client’s estate, stole funds from the estate between 2018 and 2021,” Hayes wrote in an email sent to The Maine Monitor on Wednesday Explanation .

A phone call seeking comment from Whalley on the charges was unanswered on Wednesday at the time of publication. His attorney, Walter McKee, said Whalley repaid the money with interest.

Whalley had been appointed by the Washington County Probate Court to oversee the sale and disbursement of the estate of Wilbur Knudsen, a Milbridge man who died in October 2018.

Knudsen left eight gifts of $10,000 each in his will to family members, friends, and a local animal shelter. The remainder of his estate was to be sold and divided between two grandchildren, which involved setting up a trust to help one grandchild pay for college. Whalley instead appears to have written multiple checks to his bank accounts for more than half of the roughly $378,000 estate, The Maine Monitor reported in December.

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Kelly Coburn, Knudsen’s stepdaughter who lives in Rhode Island, said she and her children received only part of the money they should have received from Whalley and the estate.

“He stole from my kids and it’s sad because it’s not like we’re rich. We counted on that,” Coburn told The Monitor in January.

News of the indictment was first reported by the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.

Whalley was disbarred in December 2022 and has been barred from practicing law for at least 10 years following a disciplinary investigation by the state Board of Overseers of the Bar into his handling of Knudsen’s estate.

McKee, an Augusta defense attorney, represented Whalley during the state investigation and is representing him in criminal proceedings. McKee said Whalley returned the money plus interest to the estate.

Whalley’s license to practice law had previously been suspended in 2003, 2007 and 2021 for professional misconduct. In February 2022, while Whalley was still on probation, the Board of Supervisors requested and obtained Whalley’s immediate suspension while they investigated his actions related to the estate.

Samantha Hogan covers the criminal justice system and government accountability for The Maine Monitor. Reach her with other story ideas by email: [email protected]