Brokers

Ex-New Hampshire real estate broker sued over alleged embezzlement

Former partner in Meredith firm alleges illegal transfer of funds

A former real estate broker is being sued by his former partner for allegedly embezzling more than $250,000 from two Meredith realty companies.

Walker G Harman Sr. of Dallas, Texas, alleges Robert Wichland, his New Hampshire partner at Bayside Rentals LLC and Bayside Realty LLC, embezzled money for years and was enabled by his accountant and friend, Richard Pendergast, another New Hampshire resident, according to the complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord by his son, Walker G Harman Jr., a New York attorney, with local counsel Benjamin T. King of Douglas Leonard & Garvey in Concord.

Attorneys for neither defendant had yet to make court appearance by deadline, but Wichland told NH Business Review, “I deny most of the things in the lawsuit. It’s wholly exaggerated. Most of it is not accurate or true.”

Pendergast said he would consult with his attorney before commenting, and did not call back by deadline.

Over a year ago, Wichland reached a settlement with the NH Real Estate Commission over Harman’s allegations that he unlawfully transferred escrow funds without the right to do so. According to the agreement, Wichland replenished the account twice, providing more than $126,000 in November 2019 in time for a closing, and in January 2020 replenishing more than $56,000. But there was no consumer activity that generated any withdrawal from the account in the first place, and that would have been enough for the commission to discipline him, Wichland acknowledged.

As part of the agreement, the commission revoked, and Wichland relinquished, his real estate broker’s license, and he agreed to pay an $8,000 fine to the commission. Wichland signed the agreement on Aug. 20, 2021.

But Harman’s suit goes beyond some illegal withdrawals that were later paid back. Harman charges that the difference between the removed and replaced money from the escrow accounts amounted to $268,492.58. “It is unknown how much he stole from the operating accounts,” says the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Pendergast failed to perform even basic accounting functions during the investigation.

The complaint charges Wichland with fraud and conversion (theft), and Pendergast with fraud and professional malpractice and negligent accounting and misrepresentation.

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