10 Florida Lawyers Disciplined For Conduct In Real Estate Transactions, Handling Clients' Money
- The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 23 attorneys, disbarring three, suspending 14, placing three on probation, reprimanding six and ordering three to pay restitution. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline.
Among the disciplined attorneys are the following ten Florida attorneys (or now former attorneys, as the case may be) for "playing fast & loose" with clients' money and/or committing legal or ethical violations in connection with conduct in real estate transactions, according to the media report:
1) Michael Allen Bryant, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay restitution of $6,120.92. Bryant committed multiple ethical violations in acting as a closing agent for transactions involving the sale of a client’s home by (1) failing to disburse money in accordance with the closing statement, (2) by failing to apply funds entrusted to him for the purposes for which they were entrusted and (3) by failing to promptly give the client the money he owed her. He also failed to see that a second mortgage was duly recorded and participated as the settlement agent in what amounted to a fraud on his client,
2) Laureen Adele Cameron, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar Board of Governors; placed on probation for two years; and directed to complete The Florida Bar’s trust accounting workshop. Among other things, Cameron failed to respond to a Bar subpoena for trust account records and violated Bar rules regulating trust accounts,3) Ronald Clyde Denis, suspended for 10 days, and ordered to undergo an office procedures and record-keeping analysis. Without proper supervision from Denis, his non-lawyer assistant sent a demand letter to an insurance company on behalf of a client for the $10,000 policy limits shortly before the statute of limitations was about to run. No lawsuit was filed. The company responded with a $1,000 settlement offer, which the client refused. Denis then closed the file, took no further action on the case and didn’t inform the client,
4) Kevin Alan Fuller, reprimanded and directed to attend "Ethics School" (Editor's query: what's ethics school???). Among other things, Fuller failed to competently represent a client by not taking the necessary steps to enforce a company’s Claim of Lien, resulting in the lien expiring,
5) William Garcia, permanently disbarred. In September, Garcia pleaded guilty to 13 felonies including grand theft, money laundering, obtaining a mortgage by false representation and false reporting by bank officers with the intent to defraud. He received a sentence of 10 years reporting probation. Multiple counts were not prosecuted in a plea arrangement that included Garcia agreeing to both give up his law license in Florida and not to seek one in any state and to be liable for $500,000 in criminal investigation costs,
6) Mark T. Guariglia, permanently disbarred, and additionally ordered to pay restitution to The Florida Bar’s Clients' Security Fund for any payments made as the result of his misconduct. After not complying with a subpoena for trust account records, Guariglia’s bank, in response to a subpoena, produced them. The records showed he had misappropriated thousands of dollars of clients’ funds, using the money from recent deposits to satisfy obligations incurred in prior periods (Ponzi scheme???) and also using funds for his own purposes. In one case, he misappropriated $155,700.53,
7) Robert Michael Marasco, ordered to receive a public reprimand and placed on probation for two years. During the probation, a certified public accountant will monthly review Marasco’s trust account records. Additionally Marasco will undergo an office procedures and record-keeping analysis. An audit revealed that Marasco was negligent in bookkeeping resulting in his trust account not being in substantial compliance with Bar rules,
8) Peter William Martin, suspended for three years, and ordered to pay restitution totaling $29,990 to two clients. Responding to a Bar complaint that he had misappropriated $19,500 from a client, Martin failed to produce trust account records and bank statements. A year later, he sent a check to the former client for $19,500 but could not account for another $9,900 belonging to the client. In another case, there was a shortage of $20,000,
9) Martin Kirby Watson, St. Petersburg, disbarred. He also agreed to make reasonable efforts to reimburse the Clients' Security Fund of The Florida Bar if payments are made as a result of his conduct. Watson was hired in February 2006 to administer a trust and will with assets of $523,074.17. In June 2006, he requested the personal representative of the estate write a check for $288,712.52 to be put in his trust account for final distribution of estate proceeds. He distributed only $50,000 and by the end of 2006, no distribution of the remaining funds had been made. Watson has not returned all the money,
10) Alberto Jose Xiques, suspended for three years. Xiques wrote a check from his operating fund for $55,136.39 to pay for the mortgage documents and intangible tax on a mortgage and security agreement in the sale of a Miami property. The check, which was not honored twice for insufficient funds, should have come from Xiques’ trust account. Additionally, on the same day, he wrote a check for $8,112.50 on his operating account to the clerk of the circuit court for state tax/stamps on the deed for the transaction. The tax on the sale of the property should have been $81,000. Civil complaints later dismissed by Gibraltar Private Bank and Trust Co. indicated Xiques did not have sufficient funds in trust accounts to cover obligations in one case and did not timely pay a mortgage and record it in another.
For more, see Florida Supreme Court Disbars Three Attorneys.
If a Florida attorney is representing you and screws you out of money or property through dishonest conduct, go to The Florida Bar's Clients' Security Fund for more information.
For other states, see: