Can her grand vision on the waterfront survive yet another grand jury?
Over the last two years regular readers of this column have come to know Yovette Mumford (or as the court papers say, "a/k/a Yovette Mumford-Markey, a/k/a Yovette Markey," etc.) as the intriguing owner of the Boston Yacht Haven, one of the jewels of the waterfront.
So many questions, so few answers: How did a woman with a checkered past that includes a conviction for Big Dig fraud, corporate bankruptcies, bounced checks, and a messy family feud over millions of dollars win and finance the $11.7 million purchase of one of the waterfront's most glamorous properties? And what does she plan to do with it?
Mumford, I wrote last year, is the woman of my dreams, the woman who could yet launch a thousand columns. I told you about a falling out with her original partner to buy the marina and about a bitter fight with her Commercial Wharf neighbors. Now, another chapter in the growing Legend of Yovette.
Yesterday, a Middlesex grand jury issued an eight-count indictment charging Mumford with forgery and related offenses. The new charges focus on a letter that states all charges in Mumford's previous conviction for tax and procurement fraud for work on the Big Dig had been dismissed. In fact, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, Mumford pleaded guilty in March 2003 to four counts of failure to file withholding tax returns and two counts of procurement fraud, and was ordered to serve three years probation, make restitution, and pay a fine. In an affidavit at the time, the attorney general's office said Mumford's company had inappropriately billed the Big Dig for, among other things, a baby sitter for her three children, dance lessons for her daughters, and improvements to her home.
It didn't end there. In the spring of 2005, Mumford was discharged early from her probation and asked for and received a letter from her probation officer explaining that she was no longer on probation, the attorney general's office says. Authorities charge that Mumford altered the letter from her probation officer, Joyce E. Coleman of the Middlesex Superior Court, to say the charges were dismissed and then used that letter in dealings with various businesses, including the bank that financed the marina deal.
To quote the allegedly doctored letter: "Please be advised that the above named was indicted on two counts of Employee tax withholdings failure to file for one fiscal year 1999 and two counts of fraudulent billing to Public Authority on a State funded construction project totally [sic] $17,000.00 as CEO of American Electronics Corp. Ms. Mumford plead [sic] not guilty. During a pretrial conference with Suffolk Superior Court (Justice Ball) presiding, a settlement was reached which Ms. Mumford agreed to make restitution of the disputed billings of $23,000. The failure to pay withholding taxes was corrected by Dept. Of Revenue audit which found mislabeled Federal I.D. numbers of the Corp. Final disposition of allegations was dismissal of all charges."
Mumford's attorney, Robert E. McLaughlin Sr., did not return repeated calls yesterday.
The probation officer's letter was part of a packet that her then-lawyer, Mark T. Vaughan of Riemer & Braunstein, sent to Northern Bank & Trust Co., which financed the purchase of Yacht Haven for Mumford, in response to my original Mumford column in November 2005. In his letter to the bank, Vaughan said the Coleman letter showed the Big Dig charges had been dismissed. He also said a judgment against Mumford by some family members, then worth, $6.4 million, had been dismissed. Court records, in fact, show that judgment has not been dismissed and the Gould family, Mumford's former in-laws, has been granted a restraining order restricting Mumford from selling or transferring the marina.
Neither Vaughan nor the bank returned my call. Coleman also could not be reached for comment.
Forgery charges surfaced twice before in Mumford's long fight with her family over an investment gone bad. That lawsuit involved a relatively small investment in a start-up called Satellite CD Radio Inc., which eventually grew into today's Sirius Satellite Radio, now known as the home of loudmouth Howard Stern. In 2000, a court ruled against Mumford, but the Gould family has never been able to collect most of the judgment.
In a 1999 affidavit, Martine Rothblatt, Satellite CD's founder, said a series of letters purportedly written by her to Mumford were bogus. Those letters discussed Mumford's investments in the company and its subsequent problems. Only one of the eight letters was authentic, Rothblatt said. "The other letters were not signed or written by me, nor sent with my authority," said Rothblatt, who was previously known as Martin Rothblatt before she changed her gender.
Mumford, the former sister-in-law of Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, had to battle to remain in her Winchester home in the wake of the judgment for the Gould family. In an affidavit, Patricia L. Davidson, the Goulds' attorney, testified that in 2001 Mumford submitted a series of letters purportedly from New Century Mortgage Corp. claiming she was trying to obtain a second mortgage that would allow her to pay the Goulds and keep her home. "All facts suggest that these three letters are fraudulent," Davidson said at the time.
Despite her continuing legal disputes with her family, her former partner, her neighbors, and now the attorney general, Mumford has continued to explore ways to build out the marina, which was originally developed by the late Les Marino, whose Modern Continental cratered under the pressures of Big Dig overruns. The marina has about 75 boat slips and a bed and breakfast on the top two floors of the property.
Mumford has explored a number of possibilities for building a boutique hotel and condos on the site, say those who have worked with her. One West Newton architectural firm, ARCADD Inc., produced a modern-day Mesopotamian glass ziggurat. Another design, a large and garish five-story glass hotel and condo structure, was being shown around to at least one local construction firm in the last month.
Two local architects, Hisham N. Ashkouri of ARCADD and Robert Livermore of Livermore Edwards & Associates in Waltham, said they were never paid for their work. "She appreciates the work we do, just not enough to pay us," Livermore told me yesterday.
Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2902.