By The Associated Press - August 21, 2009
Newsday by MITCHELL FREEDMAN - August 20, 2009 - firstname.lastname@example.org
A former Shelter Island town justice and her husband have been charged with stealing more than $1 million from an elderly Water Mill woman. Katherine Z. Pope, 56, and her husband, Wayne, 57, were arraigned yesterday morning on charges that they sold 12,000 shares of Exxon stock between February 2005 and April that belonged to Mary Abbott Estabrook. Katherine Pope was also charged with identity theft for allegedly pretending to be Estabrook and making the telephone calls that authorized the stock sales. Estabrook, 89, died in July after a lengthy illness. Wayne Pope had been working as a handyman and caretaker on her estate. Katherine Pope drove down for her arraignment yesterday from a home in Vermont she is alleged to have bought with the stolen funds, the district attorney's office said. She and her husband have separate attorneys. Suffolk County Court Justice Barbara Kahn set bail for her at $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond. Bail for Wayne Pope was $100,000 cash or $300,000 bond. Each faces 25 years in jail on the grand larceny charge, Assistant District Attorney Donna Planty said. Both entered not-guilty pleas and will return to court Sept. 1. After their arraignments, each was taken away in handcuffs. They later posted bail. Katherine Pope was elected town justice on Shelter Island in 1998 and served until 2002. "It's shocking. But we have to reserve judgment until we know all the facts," Shelter Island Town Supervisor James Dougherty said yesterday. Estabrook first met Wayne Pope when she hired him to be a handyman and caretaker for her estate on Cobb Road, the Suffolk district attorney's office said. Planty said $750,000 from the stock sale ended up in Katherine Pope's escrow account. She said Wayne Pope admitted to some charges in a taped conversation with police. The Popes used the money from the stock sales to buy a new car and the house in Tunbridge, Vt., and pay taxes on their Shelter Island home, the district attorney's office said. Defense attorneys Barry Feldman and James O'Rourke argued the case was a civil matter. They said Estabrook had asked Pope to sell the stock for her, and that they put her name on the deed to their own house to show their good faith. The house was valued at $1.5 million, although it has a mortgage. "If anything, this belongs in surrogate's court," O'Rourke said outside the courtroom. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the district attorney chose to deal with it as a criminal matter." Katherine Pope, an attorney who lists Tunbridge as her address, can practice in New York and Vermont. She has worked for the Vermont Legal Aid Society.