Monday, July 04, 2016

Rhode Island Lawyer Cops Plea To Stealing $25K+ From 91-Year Old Client Living In Convalescent Facility For Whom She Held POA; Defendant Conditionally 'Buys Out' Of Prison Time, Gets 8-Year Suspended Sentence w/ Probation By Coughing Up Cash In Advance To Make Good On Pilfered Loot

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Providence Journal reports:
  • Bristol attorney Humberta Goncalves-Babbit pleaded no contest [] in Superior Court to stealing more than $25,000 from a 91-year-old man for whom she had durable power of attorney. Her law license has also been suspended.

    Goncalves-Babbit entered her plea to one count of misappropriation of over $1,000 before Superior Court Justice Kristin Rodgers, according to a statement from the office of Atty. Gen. Peter F. Kilmartin.

    Under terms of the plea agreement, Goncalves-Babbit was sentenced to eight years suspended with probation and ordered to pay $26,066.34 in restitution in advance of [last week's] proceedings.(1)

    The state had been prepared to prove at trial that between June 19, 2012 and Jan. 11, 2014, Goncalves-Babbit "failed to properly perform her duties by not paying certain living expenses for the victim," who lived at a Warren convalescent facility, the statement from the attorney general's office said.

    The Alliance for Better Long Term Care filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Judiciary Disciplinary Committee. After an investigation, Chief Disciplinary Counsel David Curtin suspended Goncalves-Babbit's license to practice law in Rhode Island and turned the case over to the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit.
Source: Bristol attorney sentenced for stealing from 91-year-old 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.
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(1) The Rhode Island Bar Association Lawyer's Fund For Client Reimbursement was established to provide a public service and to promote confidence in the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession by providing some measure of reimbursement to victims who have lost money or property because of theft or misappropriation by a Rhode Island attorney, and occurring in Rhode Island during the course of a client-attorney relationship.

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.

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