Cecily Sturge, the former wife of ex-Hunton & Williams partner Scott Wolas, has been arrested on charges of lying to federal agents about his whereabouts. Wolas was apprehended in April and charged with perpetrating a $1.5 million real estate fraud after being a fugitive for 20 years.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston announced Wednesday that Sturge, a 69-year-old resident of Delray Beach, Florida, had been taken into custody for allegedly making a false statement to a law enforcement official when questioned about the location of her former spouse. The government’s information states that Sturge divorced Wolas in 2001 via a default judgment entered that year in a court in Palm Beach County, Florida.
In February 2017, Sturge filed a petition seeking to modify that judgment “in order to obtain the contents of Wolas’ retirement account, which had a balance of approximately $647,000, from the New York law firm where he worked prior to being indicted in 1997 by New York authorities,” according to federal prosecutors.
In pleadings filed in February and March of this year in Palm Beach, Sturge swore that she did not know where Wolas was, although prosecutors claim that telephone records refute that contention by demonstrating her frequent contact with her former husband. “In addition, copies or drafts of documents filed in the Florida proceeding were also found in the room and on a thumb drive taken from the room were Wolas was arrested,” according to prosecutors.
Media representatives for Hunton & Williams did not return requests for comment about whether the firm had made any disbursements to Sturge. Wolas, 67, left Hunton & Williams and fled New York in the late 1990s after being linked to a $100 million fraudulent liquor-exporting scheme. He was disbarred in 1999 and his former firm paid at least $6 million to settle investor suits stemming from his role in the Ponzi-type liquor fraud. (Wolas reportedly had family ties to the New York liquor business.)
An affidavit signed by FBI agent Kelly Bell on May 25 claims that Sturge made a false statement under questioning on Nov. 17, 2016. According to the 10-page affidavit, which was filed in a federal court in Massachusetts in late May, Bell and William Monteith, a police detective from Quincy, Massachusetts, interviewed Sturge on that day about Wolas in relation to his alleged involvement in a $1.5 million plan to buy the Beachcomber, a bar in Quincy slated for demolition to make way for a new real estate development in the Boston suburb.
Sturge, the mother of one of Wolas’ sons, told the investigators that the last contact she had with her former husband was 15 years ago. Sturge was advised that it is a crime to lie to a federal agent, according to Bell’s affidavit, but reiterated that “she had not been in touch with Wolas for many years.” Bell’s affidavit cites telephonic records documenting calls late last year and earlier this year between phone numbers associated with Sturge and Wolas, as well as both individuals arriving together in the same car at a Florida condominium.
When Wolas was arrested in April, it was at a condo in Delray Beach that he rented using Sturge’s name through the online apartment sharing service Airbnb Inc., according to Bell’s affidavit. Federal authorities claim that Wolas posed as Sturge’s brother and used the alias Cameron Sturge to interact with the condo owner. (Other aliases used by Wolas over the years include Frank Amolsch, Endicott Asquith, Eugene Grathwohl, Allen Hengst and Drew Prescott, according to the government.)
Bell’s affidavit states that the FBI agent believed Wolas assisted Sturge in her effort to secure funds in his law firm retirement account, although the document does not identify Hunton & Williams by name. On April 25, Wolas filed his own affidavit in the Florida dissolution proceeding agreeing to the entry of an order directing that Sturge receive the entire contents of that retirement plan, according to Bell’s affidavit.
Federal public defenders Neison Marks in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Jane Peachy in Boston are representing Wolas. Peachy declined to comment Wednesday when contacted by The American Lawyer about the charges against Sturge and reports that Wolas is in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors. Kristy Militello, a federal public defender in West Palm Beach representing Sturge, declined to comment on the charges against her client per office policy.