Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tennessee State Cops Bag Two Attorneys In Separate Cases, Alleging They Each Fleeced Clients Out Of Over $250K Held In Trust

In Jacksboro, Tennessee, WATE-TV Channel 6 reports:
  • Two Campbell County attorneys are charged with stealing money from his clients’ accounts in two separate cases.(1)

    Wesley Lynn Hatmaker, 50, is charged with one count of theft over $250,000; four counts of theft over $60,000; and two counts of theft over $10,000.

    Conrad Mark Troutman, 57, is charged with one count of theft over $250,000; two counts of theft over $60,000; and one count of theft over $10,000.

    The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began looking into complaints of theft against Hatmaker in December and developed information that from April 2009 to November 2015, Hatmaker stole more than $250,000 from the trust account for his clients. TBI says he never returned the money to the estates or victims and instead used it for his own personal use.

    Hatmaker was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Campbell County Jail. He was released after posting $150,000 bond.

    Meanwhile, TBI began investigating Troutman in January and learned that on several occasions between 2014 and 2016, he allegedly unlawfully spent money in a trust account for his clients without their knowledge. He says he then concealed the funds use by using additional client funds to replace previously used funds.

    Troutman turned himself into the Campbell County Jail after being indicted by a grand jury. he was released after posting $50,000 bond.

    Both attorneys’ law licenses have been suspended.
Source: 2 Campbell County lawyers accused of stealing from clients’ accounts.

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 Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection was established to reimburse claimants for losses caused by dishonest conduct committed by lawyers duly licensed to practice in Tennessee.

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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