A civil case against the former bookkeeper for prominent Maine attorney Daniel Lilley, who died this year, has been put on hold while a criminal investigation proceeds, court records show.

A lawsuit filed in April by Lilley’s relatives alleged that Jaime Butler, who worked for Lilley’s Portland law firm, wrote checks to herself totaling $844,000 over four years and took an additional $12,000 in cash meant for the firm.

Butler’s attorneys filed a motion May 30 to stay the civil case for six months, which was approved by a judge.

“Upon information and belief, the criminal investigation involves substantially the same allegations contained in Plaintiff’s Complaint,” according to the motion.

Lilley’s family did not oppose the six-month delay, court records show.

The lawsuit, filed by Walter F. McKee, who heads an Augusta law firm, said the alleged embezzlement was discovered this spring by Elaine Lilley, Daniel Lilley’s daughter-in-law.

Elaine Lilley filed an affidavit in which she said she was going over the firm’s books after Daniel Lilley’s death in March at age 79. In the affidavit, Elaine Lilley said she went over the accounts with Lilley’s widow, Annette Lilley, because the lawyer’s death was unexpected and they wanted to get a handle on his personal and professional finances.

Elaine Lilley said she is familiar with business accounting because she handles the books for a marina she owns with her husband, Daniel Lilley’s son Daniel. As she went through the books, she found checks written to different people and in different amounts than Butler had described, which prompted her to go through more records. Lilley said in her affidavit that she found dozens of non-payroll checks issued to Butler and that Daniel Lilley’s signature on the checks appeared to be forged. In addition, some of the checks were supposedly written and signed by Daniel Lilley in Maine during a time when he was out of state, Elaine Lilley said.

Daniel Lilley was Maine’s highest-profile lawyer, perhaps best known for his successful defense in 1990 of Jackie Bevins of Ogunquit, who was acquitted of murder despite having shot her husband 15 times – so many times that she had to reload the gun to continue shooting. Lilley argued that battered wife syndrome drove Bevins to shoot her husband.

According to Elaine Lilley, the embezzled amounts totaled nearly $77,000 in 2013, more than $220,000 in 2014, $288,350 in 2015, nearly $240,000 in 2016, and $15,656 in January and February this year. One of the 2017 checks, Lilley’s affidavit said, was issued after Daniel Lilley was hospitalized in late February and wasn’t able to communicate.

Elaine Lilley said Butler was evasive when asked about the firm’s accounts and the location of financial records.

The lawsuit also said that Elaine Lilley asked Butler to go with her to the law firm’s post office box because of questions about unpaid bills. Elaine Lilley said Butler tried to hide much of the mail from her, saying it “was from ‘the court,’ ” but Lilley said it was clear to her the mail was mostly bills or financial documents.

Butler was fired in April, according to the lawsuit.

Matt Burne can be contacted at:

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