Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cops Bag Law Firm's Legal Secretary For Allegedly Filching Nearly $200K From Employer's Dead Clients

In Freeport, Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports:
  • A legal secretary stole nearly $200,000 from seven estates she oversaw at the Tarentum-based law firm where she worked, the Allegheny County District Attorney's office said [].

    Joy Hale, 57, of Freeport is charged with seven counts of theft and 21 counts of forgery, court records show.

    Hale's bookkeeping — in which investigators said the forgery and theft spanned more than two years — came under scrutiny in May when Sandra Smith noticed discrepancies in the estate of her father, which was being handled by attorney Bill Krzton's Three Rivers Law Firm, according to a criminal complaint.

    Law firm officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

    When Smith approached Krzton about the mistakes, he responded: “You probably just made a mistake somewhere; you are not meant to understand this.”

    Krzton asked Hale to look over the estate paperwork, police wrote. Smith met later with Hale and Krzton, and Hale produced bank statements later found to be altered, police said. Smith discovered the alterations when she checked Hale's documents against documents from the bank.

    Investigators found $96,480 missing from Smith's father's estate, coming from 20 monthly checks Hale made payable to herself with Smith's forged signature, according to the complaint.

    Police said Hale admitted to signing the forged checks and creating false bank statements to cover up the theft.

    Hale told police she needed the money to help with medical care of her son in Georgia, according to the complaint, and her husband had been laid off.

    According to the complaint, when police asked Hale if she'd stolen from other estates, her attorney — Krzton — spoke up. He told police Hale had stolen about $3,000 from Krzton's aunt's estate in 2013, and he'd allowed Hale to pay back the stolen funds through her wages.

    Investigators searched Hale's bank records and discovered she'd stolen money from six other estates, totaling $94,547, according to the complaint.
Source: Tarentum legal secretary charged with stealing nearly $200,000 from estates.

(1) If the attorney is found to have some responsibility for the failure to properly safeguard his clients' money, the victims of this theft may be eligible for some reimbursement for their losses from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, which was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pennsylvania attorney.

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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