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Sept. 17, 2021

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Former Vancouver attorney pleads not guilty to theft charges

Miles accused of stealing more than $5,000 from former client

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

Former Vancouver attorney MarCine Miller Miles is accused of stealing more than $5,000 from an elderly woman she had previously represented.

Miles, 76, appeared Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on a summons for first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft. She pleaded not guilty to both charges, and waived her right to a speedy trial. Her trial is scheduled for March 23.

Judge Jennifer Snider granted Miles release on her own recognizance.

Miles resigned from the Washington State Bar Association in lieu of disbarment in April 2017. Her resignation stemmed from an unrelated case, in which she altered an elderly woman’s will and bequeathed $10,000 to herself, according to the association’s findings. Miles denied wrongdoing.

But in September 2018, the Department of Social and Health Services reported that it had found by a preponderance of evidence that Miles financially exploited and mentally abused another former client — the same victim named in the criminal case.

Among the findings, DSHS found: Miles stole $4,657.11 from the then-94-year-old woman, trespassed in her home, violated the Rule of Professional Conduct by using the woman’s financial information to commit theft, shared her private health information without her consent and harassed her.

Miles’ attorney, Josephine Townsend, previously told The Columbian that Miles did not agree with DSHS’ findings. However, the parties reached a settlement in April 2018, in which Miles agreed to pay the former client $11,000 and not to contact her anymore. The woman has since died.

The case started in December 2016 when Miles’ former client was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. Miles was the woman’s attorney for about 20 years, according to the DSHS report.

In July 2014, Miles prepared two Durable Power of Attorney forms for the woman: one for health care decisions and nomination of guardian, and another for her financial estate. The woman designated a friend, Jackie Sundstrom, to be her attorney-in-fact for health care decisions, and made Miles her alternate if Sundstrom was unwilling to serve. She designated Miles to be her attorney-in-fact for financial estate, and Sundstrom as the alternate. It would only become effective if the woman was deemed to have a disability or to be incompetent, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

“Disability shall include the inability of the principal (victim) to manage property and affairs effectively for reasons such as mental illness, mental deficiency, illness or disability, advanced age. … Disability may be evidenced by a written statement of a qualified physician regularly attending the principal,” the affidavit reads.

In 2016, the woman asked Miles to remove Sundstrom from her will after some property went missing and she blamed Sundstrom. Miles did not follow her wishes, however. Sundstrom later signed a resignation form indicating she didn’t want to be attorney-in-fact for the woman anymore, court records state.

Despite not having the legal authority, Miles made an appointment for the woman Jan. 3, 2017, with her primary care physician. The woman’s longtime family friend and neighbor, Mark Ickert, went with her. They did not know, at the time, who made the appointment, the affidavit says.

Miles showed up a short time later and was reportedly shocked to see Ickert there. She asked the doctor to excuse him from the room, against the woman’s wishes. Miles then pressured the doctor to declare the woman incompetent, making the Durable Power of Attorney valid and putting Miles in charge of her financial estate. The doctor said he had only 20 minutes to evaluate the woman and admitted to not having notes indicating any cognitive impairment. Still, he declared her incompetent, the court document states.

Three days after that appointment, the woman hired Vancouver attorney Thomas Hackett to create a new Durable Power of Attorney and appointed Ickert as the attorney-in-fact. She also revoked Miles’ powers of attorney, which Miles was notified of and instructed not to contact the woman, according to the affidavit.

But on Jan. 13, 2017, Miles requested the withdrawal of $600 from the woman’s Raymond James account to “pay bill for appointment to determine cognitive impairment of client.” Days later, she requested a withdrawal of $4,657.11 from the woman’s account to pay herself, court records show.

On Jan. 23, 2017, a doctor met with the woman and completed a full cognitive evaluation at Hackett’s request. The doctor determined the woman possessed the cognitive capacity to complete and understand the legal documents.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said in March that a detective from the property crime unit was investigating the case.

Miles was a longtime attorney in Clark County, and prominent on local boards and organizations. According to Columbian archives, she sought election or appointment at least four times to the Clark County District Court bench, in 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2004. In 2006, Miles unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for county clerk, who is the elected custodian of Superior Court records.

In 1985, she resigned in lieu of termination as a District Court magistrate after at least 1,800 traffic cases she heard were found to have been improperly handled.

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