Saturday, April 09, 2016

Disbarred For Ripping Off Over $300K From Client, Ex-Lawyer Finally Gets Slammed w/ Criminal Indictment

In Hammond, Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Times reports:
  • A former Merrillville attorney was indicted in federal court last week, accused of stealing more than $300,000 from a client.

    Robert Stochel was charged with one count of mail fraud in Hammond's U.S. District Court.

    According to the indictment, Stochel was appointed a receiver in 1999 over the corporation Tip Top Supermarket Inc. following a civil lawsuit between the two brothers who owned the company.

    Stochel allegedly opened a bank account to hold money in the receivership. The indictment alleges between January 2001 and June 2012, Stochel withdrew money from the account for his personal benefit. It also alleges he would periodically replace money in the account from his funds in an attempt to cover up the previous withdrawals.

    In total, Stochel allegedly stole $331,840 from the account.

    Stochel was disbarred from practicing law in Indiana by the Indiana Supreme Court in February 2015.(1)(2)(3)
Source: Disbarred Merrillville attorney indicted for mail fraud.
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(1) The Clients’ Financial Assistance Fund of the Indiana State Bar Association provides compensation, as a matter of grace, and not as a right, to qualified applicants who have suffered a monetary loss as a result of dishonest acts of an Indiana lawyer, acting either as a lawyer or as a fiduciary.

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.
(2) According to the Indiana Supreme Court ruling ordering the disbarment, Stochel's dirty deeds also included actively concealing that receivership theft for nearly a decade, stealing trust account funds belonging to a former law partner and that partner's clients in an unrelated ripoff, and refusing to cooperate with the Attorney Disciplinary Commission's investigations into his actions. In Re Stochel, 34 NE 3d 1207 (Ind. 2015).

(3) Stochel apparently had a past history of being the subject of disciplinary action for playing fast & loose with clients' money. See In re Stochel, 792 NE 2d 874 (Ind. 2003).

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