A former Vancouver attorney was sentenced Monday to 20 days of community service for stealing more than $5,000 from an elderly woman she’d previously represented.
MarCine Miller Miles, 79, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to a gross misdemeanor of third-degree theft. She was originally charged with first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft.
Deputy Prosecutor Brian Pruett told the court that after Miles did not follow the client’s wishes to make changes to her will, the woman fired Miles as her attorney. Afterward, Miles moved funds into her own account without authorization. The woman has since died.
Defense attorney Josephine Townsend said the money Miles stole was for Miles’ attorney’s fees, although she didn’t have the authority to take that money once she no longer represented the woman. Miles suspected the woman’s nephew was trying to take advantage of her finances, Townsend said, and Miles was trying to prevent him from changing the power of attorney over her.
Miles declined to make a statement to the court. The victim’s family did not attend the hearing.
A longtime attorney in Clark County and prominent on local boards and organizations, 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.
In September 2018, the Department of Social and Health Services reported it had found by a preponderance of evidence that Miles financially exploited and mentally abused a former client — the victim 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 Rules of Professional Conduct by using the woman’s financial information to commit theft, shared her private health information without her consent and harassed her. (The findings came following a two-day administrative hearing, in which Miles had appealed the initial findings made in June 2017.)
Townsend previously told The Columbian that Miles did not agree with DSHS’ findings. Still, 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 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. Townsend said the women were lifelong friends.
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. She designated Miles to be her attorney-in-fact for her financial estate and the alternate for her health care decisions. The power of attorney would only become effective if the woman was deemed to have a disability or to be incompetent, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
In 2016, the client asked Miles to remove the person she’d designated for her health care decision from her will after she blamed that woman for some missing property. Miles did not follow her wishes, however, and that woman later signed a resignation, court records state.
Despite not having the legal authority, Miles made an appointment for her client with her primary care physician in January 2017. 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.
Later that month, another doctor evaluated the woman and deemed her competent.