Nearly a week after he was arrested at his South Water street home and briefly jailed on criminal charges of embezzlement, Edgartown attorney Edward W. (Peter) Vincent Jr. yesterday settled two separate civil cases alleging he misused client funds in real estate deals.
Criminal charges are still pending.
The two civil cases were dismissed by agreement with the parties involved, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and First American Title Insurance Company, Mr. Vincent’s lawyer, Roger Matthews of the Boston firm Denner Pellegrino, told the Gazette yesterday, declining to give further details.
Liens on Mr. Vincent’s property obtained in court — $200,000 by the MSPCA and $500,000 by First American — were released yesterday, records at the Dukes County Registry of Deeds show.
At the same time, property on Old Oyster Pond Road, owned by a trust belonging to Mr. Vincent’s wife, Melissa Norton Vincent, was mortgaged for $700,000 to Michael Kidder, an Edgartown resident and philanthropist, according to documents at the registry.
Mr. Kidder last night said, “My wife, Pat, and I have known Peter and Melissa Vincent for a number of years. We decided to make a secured loan so that those who are owed money can be repaid more quickly.”
On Monday Mrs. Vincent sat in the front row of the Dukes County courthouse as her husband’s arraignment on criminal charges of larceny by embezzlement over $250 and fiduciary embezzlement was postponed until May 19 without objection from the Cape and Islands district attorney. Mr. Vincent’s attorney, Richard Piazza, cited an agreement on the continuance with the attorney general, adding that he expected restitution would be made in the civil cases within 24 to 48 hours.
Mr. Vincent had been handcuffed and led from his home by Edgartown police last Friday afternoon and taken to the Edgartown house of correction. Within hours, a bail commissioner released Mr. Vincent on personal recognizance after he surrendered his passport.
The criminal charges stem from a complaint to police by the MSPCA, which until two years ago ran what is now the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.
Mr. Vincent’s legal troubles came to light a month ago when the MSPCA filed a lawsuit in Dukes County superior court citing $190,000 in missing proceeds after he represented the MSPCA when the nonprofit sold the building that houses a veterinary clinic near its former shelter in Edgartown. The sale closed in mid-February, but at first none of the proceeds were delivered and by month’s end only partial payment was made. When Mr. Vincent stopped responding to inquiries from the MSPCA and from Edgartown police about where the money was, the MSPCA went to court, “concerned that Mr. Vincent has absconded with the money.”
On vacation in the Caribbean, Mr. Vincent did not appear at the case’s first hearing, where a judge froze his assets and allowed the MSPCA a $200,000 lien on his property.
The following week similar concerns about Mr. Vincent’s fiduciary conduct led to First American filing suit in Suffolk superior court, alleging breach of contract, gross negligence and fraudulent conveyance. In that case, Mr. Vincent represented the buyers and lender and acted as settlement agent in connection with a purchase of a home on Robins Nest Road in Edgartown. After the sale closed in February, Mr. Vincent signed documents saying that he collected more than $400,000 and used the money to pay the sellers’ mortgages; however, those mortgages were not in fact paid.
First American’s March 23 complaint charged that it is exposed to liabilities of at least $450,000 in that deal and “is potentially exposed to unknown liabilities with regard to other loan closings conducted by Mr. Vincent in which he failed to pay pre-existing liens.”
First American successfully argued for immediate access to all documents related to the real estate deal involved, as well as files dating back as far as 2005. The judge also attached a lien up to $500,000 to Mr. Vincent’s real estate and other assets and froze his bank accounts “other than for normal, incidental living expenses not to exceed $1,000” per month, not including mortgage or car loan payments or utility bills.
Already postponed twice, a hearing on the case was scheduled for yesterday before the parties reached agreement.
Mr. Vincent’s attorney in the matter, Mr. Matthews, last week told the Gazette his client expected to pay the money at issue on both cases. Yesterday, Mr. Matthews would not confirm how much if any money had been paid to the MSPCA or First American.
He also declined to comment on whether Mr. Vincent had made a response to the state Board of Bar Overseers, which is investigating complaints about his conduct. Mr. Matthews is not a criminal attorney and will not be representing Mr. Vincent on the charges pending in district court.
Edgartown police chief Antone Bettencourt said last Friday that police applied for an arrest warrant that morning after consulting with the Massachusetts Attorney General.
“We called to talk about it and to see whether they felt it was something that we could handle here, and they came to the conclusion that it was,” Chief Bettencourt said. Reached at the Edgartown station last night, Sgt. Tom Smith said to his knowledge nothing has changed in the criminal case. “I am not aware of any changes, and it’s certainly nothing we would drop. That would be up to the D.A. [Cape and Islands district attorney],” the sergeant said.
On the morning of his arraignment, Mr. Vincent pressed his fingers together as he waited in the front row before leaving the courtroom with police and reappearing from a back room reserved for lawyers, when his case was called, to stand with his counsel. After the arraignment was postponed, Mr. Piazza declined comment and Mr. Vincent exited through a back door.
A prominent Edgartown attorney, Mr. Vincent also holds several positions on town boards, including chairman of the conservation commission and a member of the community preservation committee. A former chairman of the board of directors of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and former board member of the Island Housing Trust, he is currently the town representative to the MVTV board and an elected member of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission, where he serves as secretary-treasurer.