A panel that oversees the professional conduct of state lawyers found that local attorney John Nugent violated ethics laws in his handling of the estate of Josephine Smoron, according to a decision released this week.
The Statewide Grievance Committee ruled that Nugent knowingly ignored knowledge that Smoron had a signed will leaving her 80- to 90-acre farm to caretaker Samuel Manzo. It further found that Nugent sought to intentionally deceive and defraud Smoron of her final wishes, and lied during testimony last fall.
The committee ordered that Nugent be reprimanded for the violations, which means a copy of its findings will be published in the state’s law journal.
“We conclude that the respondent knew that Ms. Smoron had a will that left her estate to the complainant,” the report stated. “Rather than actively search for this will and confirm Ms. Smoron’s testamentary wishes, however, the respondent chose to ignore the information presented to him and develop a mechanism that would give him control over Ms. Smoron’s estate after her death and allow him to determine who would inherit her estate.”
Nugent’s attorney, James Sullivan, said the ruling was based on vague rules of administration of justice and he will appeal the decision.
“We disagree with the findings and we are going to request a hearing,” Sullivan said.
Nugent was Smoron’s conservator when she died in June 2009. Several months before she died, Nugent created two trusts and funded them with her cash assets and real estate while naming himself trustee. He also made a deal with local developer Carl Verderame to buy the property for $1.5 million for use as an access road to Verderame’s proposed sports complex off Interstate 84. Three local churches were to be named beneficiaries, not Manzo.
Shortly after Smoron’s death, Manzo learned there was only $6,000 in the estate and hired local attorney Barry Pontolillo. The case is now in the hands of three probate courts and Hartford Superior Court.
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