Thursday, November 24, 2016

Months After Disbarment For Playing Fast & Loose With Client's Cash, S. Florida Lawyer Faces Three Grand Theft Charges For Allegedly Screwing Clients Out Of Proceeds Of Their Lawsuit Settlements; No Pre-Trial Release Allowed Until Authorities Confirm That Any Posted Bail Money Is Clean Of Filched Funds

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • A former Fort Lauderdale attorney was arrested on grand theft charges [] after detectives say he set aside his clients' settlement money for his own use.

    William Hutchinson, 70, of Parkland, was booked into the Broward County Jail on $125,000 bond. But he can't post it until authorities confirm he's using his own money.

    According to his arrest report, a review of bank records showed that he "has used a substantial portion of the settlement funds well in excess of $100,000 to pay personal and business expenses."

    Investigators allege that Hutchinson settled a wrongful death case for $675,000 over several years. But the father of the victim hired a lawyer to complain to authorities in June 2015 that he hadn't received any money.

    Investigators allege Hutchinson withdrew money to make payments to the parents of the victim, but took the money from a second settlement case to do it. In that case, Hutchinson had settled a personal injury case for a man with an insurance company.

    To date, that man has not received any money, according to the report.

    Hutchinson told investigators about the misplaced money, writing a letter to the attorney of the Florida Bar saying he was self-reporting a shortage of almost $272,000 in his trust account. "I apologize and please know that I intend to pay this shortage in full and have placed my home and office building for sale," he wrote.

    In a third charge, investigators allege in February he settled another personal injury case for $100,000. He turned $10,000 over to the victim and kept a third of the settlement in his attorney fees before his client signed off on the case. That meant the money he kept was "misappropriated or [stolen]," according to authorities.

    Hutchinson was disbarred this summer stemming from the first incident of not dispersing settlement money to the parents in the wrongful death case. Records show his law office was in Fort Lauderdale.

    Hutchinson's defense attorney, David Bogenschutz, was unavailable for comment, according to his partner, Jeremy Kroll.
Source: Former Fort Lauderdale attorney accused of illegally keeping clients' settlement money (Parkland lawyer charged with three counts of grand theft).
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(1) The Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help compensate persons who have suffered a loss of money or property due to misappropriation or embezzlement by a Florida-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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