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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Patricia Merz And Christopher McGuigan Sentenced For Embezzling From Mother's Bennington Estate

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Patricia Merz, 58, of Niskayuna, New York, and her brother, Christopher McGuigan, 53, of Rutland, have been sentenced in United States District Court in Burlington following their convictions on federal fraud and conspiracy charges. Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss sentenced Merz to time served, to be followed by three years of supervised release. As a condition of supervised release, Merz must spend the next six months in home confinement. This past January, Judge Reiss sentenced McGuigan to time served, followed by three years of supervised release. The court ordered Merz to pay restitution totaling about $52,000 and McGuigan to pay about $40,000. .

In 2014, a federal grand jury in Rutland returned a superseding 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. The sale 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, spending the entire $180,000 within about one year. Merz withdrew about $50,000 from the estate account by forging McGuigan's signatures on numerous banking withdrawal slips.

In October 2014, following a three-day trial, a federal jury convicted Merz on all four counts. McGuigan, who cooperated with the investigation, pled guilty to conspiracy.

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.

Updated July 28, 2015