AN American lawyer accused of swindling $500,000 (€375,000) from Gayle Dunne, the wife of indebted developer Sean Dunne, has been sacked as trustee of a property that she is developing.
New York lawyer Philip Teplen was replaced as trustee of the $2m (€1.5m) property, which is located in an exclusive residential area of Greenwich, Connecticut, in recent days.
Plans to remodel the property had been left in limbo after a dispute erupted between Mrs Dunne and Mr Teplen over the alleged missing money.
Mr Teplen had been due to make representations at a planning hearing earlier this month, but this was cancelled at short notice a few days after the money dispute was publicised.
His replacement as trustee, a local lawyer called Thomas Heagney, is now set to make representations at a deferred planning hearing next week.
The remodelling project has caused considerable controversy among residents in Greenwich, amid allegations that excessive demolition work took place on the property, 38 Bush Avenue.
Local planning authorities issued a 'stop work' order last October and the project has been stalled ever since.
The Dunnes moved to Greenwich last year, although Sean Dunne commutes regularly between the US and Ireland in order to manage his business interests here.
He says that he owns no property in the US. However, his wife has revealed in court papers that she is setting herself up as a property developer and lists 38 Bush Avenue as her home address in company office records.
She has refused to say whether or not she is the property's owner.
It is unclear how Mrs Dunne, a former socialite and gossip columnist, is to fund her real-estate investments.
Her husband, who paid €379m for two Ballsbridge hotels during the boom, is currently dealing with NAMA and also owes significant sums to non-NAMA banks.
Mr Teplen was hired by Mrs Dunne to help her apply for an investment visa. To support the application, she put $500,000 of her own funds in an escrow account controlled by him.
However, when she sought to use the money as a down payment for a property deal in Chicago last December, Mr Teplen allegedly failed to return the cash.
Mrs Dunne subsequently lodged a lawsuit against the lawyer in the New York State Supreme Court and has secured an order compelling Mr Teplen to produce the money or a convincing reason why he does not have it.
Mr Teplen did not return calls from this newspaper yesterday. George Mayer, a lawyer representing Mr Teplen, has also refused to comment.
Mrs Dunne said recently that she would not be making any comment in relation to her personal or financial affairs in the United States.
"Her marital affairs, her place of residence and her finances are not legitimate matters of public interest," said a statement issued on her behalf.
"She is not a public person and has no bank debts with any Irish bank covered by the Irish Government guarantee, and for absolute clarity is not the subject of any NAMA loans."
Court papers reveal that Mrs Dunne is planning to make a new life for herself in the US property business. In an email attached to one affidavit, she wrote: "I have a visa and am here to develop property."
The former columnist also revealed that she had funds in an investment portfolio, which, she said, was "performing well".