Saturday, April 09, 2016

Atlanta Feds Pinch Attorney For Allegedly Concocting Sham Real Estate Deal To Fleece $2 Million From Elderly Client

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Atlanta, Georgia):
  • Attorney Bennett L. Kight was arraigned on a federal indictment [] charging him with mail fraud while serving as a trustee and manager for assets, investments, and real estate owned by one of his clients.

    “Kight was trusted to properly manage assets and investments belonging to an elderly client,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “This indictment alleges that he instead misappropriated $2 million from her by orchestrating a sham real estate transaction involving his former personal residence.”

    According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Kight is a lawyer licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia since 1966. Kight represented F.B. and members of her family, as well as serving as a trustee and manager for assets, investments, and real estate owned and held for the benefit of F.B. and her family.

    In January 2006, Kight used his responsibility over F.B.’s assets to misappropriate approximately $2 million from accounts owned by or held for the benefit of F.B. Kight used the money he took from F.B.’s accounts to pay off the $500,000 mortgage on his former home in Atlanta and to fund investments for his benefit. Without informing F.B., Kight obtained the money by purporting to sell F.B. his former home. To facilitate the sale, Kight formed and used two limited liability companies that were supposed to hold title to the house for F.B.’s benefit. However, no deed transferring Kight’s former home to F.B. or these companies was publicly recorded, and Kight later dissolved these companies.

    Kight’s son ultimately moved into the property Kight allegedly “sold” to F.B. and caused a back dated deed to the property to be prepared and publicly recorded on March 21, 2011. The back dated deed purported to show that an entity owned and controlled by Kight had owned the house since July 2005, which was several months before Kight obtained $2 million from F.B.’s assets by allegedly selling her the property.(1)
Source: Lawyer Charged with Defrauding Elderly Client.

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. [...] The fact is, however, that theft of client property is not an insignificant or isolated problem within the legal profession. Indeed, it is a hounding phenomenon nationwide, and probably the principal reason why most lawyers nationwide are disbarred from the practice of law.
(1) The Clients' Security Fund of the State Bar of Georgia (Part X - Rule 10-101 et.seq., Georgia Bar Rules Handbook) was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to misappropriation or embezzle­ment by a Georgia-licensed attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover 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.

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