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Former Nashua grant writer suing city officials from behind bars

Union Leader Correspondent

December 08. 2017 9:25PM


NASHUA — From behind bars, a former volunteer grant writer for the city who was recently sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison, is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the city, mayor and his chief of staff claiming abuse of power and defamation of character.

Dana Michelle Lawrence, a convicted felon, is seeking at least $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the city, according to a complaint received Friday at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua.

Although she recently pleaded guilty to identity fraud for misuse of a Social Security number on an apartment lease, Lawrence has not been charged in connection with the city’s allegations that she attempted to obtain account numbers and routing numbers to private accounts in her role as a volunteer grant writer.

“The allegations in this document are patently false and an obvious attempt at retaliation by a convicted felon and con artist,” Kim Kleiner, the chief of staff for Mayor Jim Donchess, said in a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Lawrence is suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation of character and abuse of power.

Lawrence, 43, previously of 17.5 Jefferson St., was arrested earlier this year after using an alias and fraudulently using an incorrect Social Security number on an apartment lease application; she was sentenced in November to 18 months in a federal prison. However, she is not facing any charges in connection with her role as a volunteer grant writer, and no money was ever stolen from the city.

“These accusations have altered my life and played a huge part in my sentencing,” Lawrence said via telephone from prison, referring to the allegations that she attempted to obtain private information from city accounts during her volunteer work.

According to Lawrence’s complaint, a full overview of city department emails were searched and there was no evidence that Lawrence was emailing department heads seeking account numbers or routing numbers.

“We did a complete download of the city, yes,” Kleiner told the U.S. District Court last month during Lawrence’s sentencing hearing, adding nothing was found in the email records.

Lawrence did successfully secure two grants for Nashua, although one was never accepted by officials because of various conditions.

Police said earlier that they believe Lawrence could possibly have been involved in significant fraud schemes across the nation as she traveled through nine other states using various aliases.

In a government sentencing memorandum filed at the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire, Kleiner noted that the memo summarizes Lawrence’s criminal history and the memo refers to her as an “accomplished serial fraudster” who “is able to seamlessly lie to people.”

Authorities discovered during their investigation that Lawrence previously served a year in a Rhode Island prison for a theft offense, and although she was on probation for nine years, “she absconded from supervision and a warrant was ultimately issued for her arrest,” said a prior release issued by Acting U.S. Attorney John Farley for the District of New Hampshire.

Lawrence, at this point, is representing herself in the new lawsuit against the city.

“Although the court received the lawsuit paperwork on Friday, it has since been returned to the plaintiff for clerical purposes. A court clerk said Lawrence failed to include the addresses of the defendants.

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