Nunez tenant testifies he never paid for space leased from city dentist
A key witness for the prosecution testified Wednesday that he signed a lease with Gilberto Nunez for the space in one of Nunez’s Washington Avenue buildings but that he never paid a dime for the use of the area.
Matthew Topple said under cross-examination that he had been given immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Nunez, a Kingston dentist who was acquitted in June of killing his ex-lover’s husband, is on trial in Ulster County Court for insurance fraud and grand larceny related to an insurance claim
he made on the building he owned at 381-385 Washington Ave., next door to his dental office. The building was destroyed by a fire in February 2014.
William McVey, an independent insurance adjuster who reviewed Nunez’s claim and recommended payment for the losses incurred in the fire, said Nunez was paid $180,000, including $8,400 for seven months of lost rental income. That’s the amount at the center of the trial.
Topple, who at the time rented an apartment from Nunez at 387 Washington Ave., said that in June 2013, he signed a lease with Nunez for space in the building at 381-385 Washington Ave. because they were friends and Nunez wanted to lower his insurance costs on the building. In exchange for signing the lease, Topple said, Nunez agreed to let him store his construction tools in the building.
Under questioning by Orange County Senior Assistant District Attorney Maryellen Albanese, the special prosecutor in the case, Topple testified that although he signed the lease, he was unaware of its terms.
Asked if he ever gave Nunez money for the property, Topple said, “I did not.”
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Evan Lipton, Topple said he did significant work for Nunez for which he was paid at times in cash and at times in exchange for reduced rent. He said he couldn’t recall how much Nunez paid him for his work or what he received in rent credit, though he said he probably only paid rent for two of the four years he lived in his apartment.
“I thought it was a standard lease agreement. I’d signed hundreds of them before. I thought I was helping a friend out,” Topple said. “I didn’t read it.
Also on the stand, the 39-year-old conceded he had been arrested a number of times, including for possession of stolen property, possession of drugs and on two occasions driving under the influence of alcohol. But, he said, he “couldn’t recall” the details of those arrests or the outcomes of any criminal prosecutions.
“I was doing a lot of drugs back then,” he said. “It was 10 years ago. It’s not something I remember, it’s not something I can recall.”
Nunez has not been charged with starting the fire but has been charged with insurance fraud, grand larceny and five counts of falsifying business records, all felonies, for claiming he lost rental income as a result of the fire. The cause of the fire was never determined.
The trial is to resume at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.
On June 14, Nunez was acquitted of murdering his former lover’s husband, Thomas Kolman, in November 2011. Nunez, however, was found guilty of two felony counts of possession of a forged instrument for having a fake CIA identification card on his computer and for giving his former lover a letter purporting to be from a CIA agent.
Kolman, 44, whose wife Linda was having an affair with Nunez, was found dead in his own vehicle at a shopping plaza in the town of Ulster. Prosecutors alleged Nunez poisoned him with a dental sedative so he could have Mrs. Kolman to himself. The defense argued Nunez and Thomas Kolman were best friends and the dentist had nothing to do with the death.
Ulster County Judge Donald A. Williams has said he will not sentence Nunez for the forged instrument convictions until after the dentist stands trial for the charges related to the insurance fraud, as well as for charges of perjury, offering a false instrument for filing and making an apparently sworn false statement in connection to allegedly filing false information while applying for a pistol permit. Jury selection for that trial is expected to begin next month.