AUGUSTA — A woman accused of embezzling $166,000 from the Maine Trial Lawyers Association wants to remain mum about where the money went.

The lawyers’ association won a civil judgment March 4 against former employee Bettysue Higgins, 54, of Gardiner.

She has been subpoenaed to attend a hearing Thursday in Augusta District Court to say how she plans to pay the civil judgment, which grows to $170,000 with added fees and interest.
Meanwhile, her criminal case is ongoing. Higgins has pleaded not guilty to theft and forgery in that case.

In the civil case, Higgins has been subpoenaed to inform the court as to whether she is able to pay the judgment.

But Ronald Bourget, Higgins’ court-appointed attorney in the criminal case, is seeking to get that subpoena quashed.

Bourget said Higgins will assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when she appears in District Court on Thursday. Kelly Hoffman, an attorney representing the association, said Monday she was preparing a response to Bourget’s motion, and expected to file it today.

Most recently in Kennebec County Superior Court, where her criminal charges are pending, Bourget won a judge’s approval for Higgins to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Bourget wrote the court to assert that materials supplied by the state show “evidence of a mental health disorder or psychosis which would negate criminal responsibility regarding the crimes charged.”

To support his request, Bourget offered excerpts from a Kennebec Journal story that described Higgins spending most of her time playing an online game called YoVille, played through Facebook or MySpace.

Higgins’ YoVille profile page indicates she continues to play daily.

For a long time in YoVille, Higgins’ virtual self was a green-eyed blonde dressed in a black-and-white bee costume, with antennae and yellow high heels.

She went by the name Queen Mom Betty, and later Queenie.

Her new avatar is “Maggie darLing,” whose appearance changes almost daily.That — and many of her online properties — can be seen on a public profile page linked to a Facebook account registered to Higgins. The Web address is www.yoville.com/profile/14362155.

Fellow players say Higgins appeared to spend most of her time in YoVille, buying homes, outfits, furniture and other items. “YoCash” or “coins” are used as currency in a game where Higgins is a virtual multimillionaire.

According to Mike Cullen, a Leonardo, N.J., elementary school principal and the president of the virtual YoVille Business Leaders Association of which Higgins was a member, coins can be purchased with real money from the online gaming operator for $100 per 70,000.

Coins can be purchased much cheaper from private sellers, which, Cullen said, is against the game’s policy.

One of the items Higgins owns — a “regal throne” in a property — is currently valued at approximately 1.5 million coins. If Higgins purchased the coins at the regular rate, she would have spent more than $2,000 on a seat only her avatar could use.

Higgins was once a more prominent YoVille citizen, Cullen said. Higgins also told fellow players — almost all of whom are from out of state — she was an attorney.

According to Cullen, Higgins still is insistent she is an attorney who’s been barred from practicing during her legal ordeal.

“I don’t know anyone who believes her,” he said. “Maybe she thinks she is (a lawyer).”

In reality, Higgins was an administrative assistant for the Maine Trial Lawyers Association from September 2002 until she was fired Oct. 8, 2010, soon after association Executive Director Steven Prince learned from a bank that a check was about to bounce and realized association money was missing.

Higgins was convicted in 1991 of stealing money from her then-employer, Maine School Administrative District 11.

In a court affidavit, Prince said after he reported the missing funds to Augusta police on Oct. 7, 2010, he received a call from Higgins’ husband Michael saying Higgins has been admitted to Maine Medical Center’s Psychological Unit.

Bourget gave the court a copy of Higgins’ bank statement from February 2010 showing “over $4,000 in gaming addiction expenditures” to an online payment service.

On Monday, Bourget said he offered Higgins’ monthly statement to the court as a representative sample, saying there were similar expenditures in other months.

“It is apparent to me that those can be represented as gaming expenses.; she’s paying to upgrade her character,” Bourget said.

Cullen said Higgins would take her avatar to online auctions and bid extremely high prices for items “so people would notice her.” He said she would use this as an in-road to friendship with other players.

“I think this game is her way of being affluent,” he said. “That was her main motivation for playing. She liked that prestige.”

According to court documents, Higgins has no money and no job, and her home is in foreclosure.
Higgins also is scheduled to be in Kennebec County Superior Court on criminal charges today