Sunday, February 28, 2016

Disbarred Lawyer Gets 11 Years For Running Scheme That Bilked Over $840K From Vulnerable Adult Incapacitated By Stroke

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Greenbelt, Maryland):
  • U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced former attorney Saundra Lucille White, a/k/a Lucille Parrish-White and six variations of those names, age 57, of Lothian, Maryland, [] to 11 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud clients of $841,908.57. Judge Grimm also entered an order requiring White to pay restitution of $841,908.57, and to forfeit that same amount, along with property and several vehicles.
    ***
    According to the evidence presented at White’s seven day trial, in March 2010, White agreed to assist Victim H to obtain guardianship for a relative (Victim M) who had been incapacitated by a stroke. At White’s request Victim H provided White with an accounting of Victim M’s assets. With White’s assistance, Victim H obtained guardianship of Victim M a short time later. Victim M died on January 7, 2011. White was disbarred from the practice of law in the District of Columbia on January 20, 2011 and disbarred in Maryland on September 9, 2011. White did not inform Victim H of her pending disbarment, nor did she tell Victim H that she was no longer a licensed attorney.

    According to trial evidence, from March 2010 through May 2013, White created fraudulent tax notices that purported to be from the Internal Revenue Service, and demanded payment of taxes purportedly owed by Victim M and by a deceased relative of Victim M. The notices required that payments be sent to an entity called Intel Realty Financial Services (IRFS) at a mailbox in Annapolis, Maryland, controlled by White.

    White then mailed and faxed the fraudulent tax notices to Victim H, advising Victim H that in her role as legal guardian of Victim M, she was required to remit payments for these taxes to the address in the notice. Once White obtained the checks sent by Victim H in response to the fraudulent tax notices, totaling $750,000, she deposited them in the bank accounts she opened in the names of IRFS and Victim M. White withdrew the funds from the bank accounts, forging Victim M’s signature on checks made out to White, other entities controlled by White, a family member, or otherwise for White’s benefit.

    White also obtained debit cards in Victim M’s name and attempted to obtain a Maryland driver’s license in the name of Victim M, but bearing White’s photograph. White used some of the money to purchase luxury items, including a $20,500 check used as a down payment for a 2011 Silver Volvo C70 hard-top convertible.
Source: Disbarred Attorney Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison for Scheme to Defraud Clients of More Than $841,000.

See, generally, Frederick Miller, "If You Can't Trust Your Lawyer .... ?", 138 Univ. of Pennsylvania Law Rev. 785 (1990) for more on the apparent, long-standing tolerance for deceit by many in the legal profession:
  • This tolerance to deception is encouraged by the profession's institutional civility. Seldom is a fig called a fig, or a shyster a shyster. No, our euphemisms are wonderfully polite: "frivolous conduct," or a "lack of candor;" or "law-office failure;" or, heaven forbid, a "peculation," a "defalcation," or a "negative balance" in a law firms's trust account.

    There is also widespread reluctance on the part of lawyers --- again, some lawyers --- to discuss publicly, much less acknowledge, that they have colleagues who engage in deceit and unprofessional conduct.

    This reluctance is magnified when the brand of deceit involves the theft of client money and property, notwithstanding that most lawyers would agree that stealing from clients is the ultimate ethical transgression.
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(1) The Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland is a fund established to provide some reimbursement to individuals who have lost money or property as a result of the dishonest conduct of an attorney practicing law in the State of Texas.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    When Lawyers Steal the Escrow, a June, 2005 New York Times story describing some cases of client reimbursements ("With real estate business surging and down-payment amounts rising with home prices, the temptation for a lawyer to filch money from a bulging escrow account and later repay it with other clients' money has never been greater, said lawyers who monitor the thefts."),

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.

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