Friday, December 23, 2016

S.C. Lawyer Gets Bar Boot Over Misappropriations From Client Trust Account In Excess Of $200K

In Greenville, North Carolina, reports:
  • A Greenville personal injury attorney was disbarred last month for misappropriating money that belonged to his clients, according to an order from the N.C. State Bar.

    The Bar, the agency which regulates the practice of law in North Carolina, disbarred R. Alfred Patrick following an investigation that began after several of his clients filed complaints.

    In an order of discipline filed in Wake County, the Bar stated that Patrick diverted funds that should have been available for his clients and converted them to his own use; that he did so over the course of several years; that he failed to report his misappropriations and failed to respond to letters concerning them; and has shown himself to be untrustworthy.

    The misappropriations occurred in a trust account that Patrick had at The East Carolina Bank for 23 of his clients. Between 2012 and July 2015, Patrick deposited funds in those clients' names in the trust account and over the course of several years removed the money for his own use, the order states.

    For example, in 2015, as money was added to the trust account for some clients, every couple of weeks, there was less and less money in the account. One example was, according to the order, as of March 31, 2014, when there should have been $109,000 for 13 of his clients in the account, there was just $727.24.

    As of Aug. 25, 2015, when there should have been $221,000 in the account, there was $16,952.23.
    Proper maintenance and management of entrusted funds is a cornerstone of the public's trust in the legal profession,” the order states. “Embezzlement is one of the most serious offenses an attorney can commit, betraying the client's trust in the attorney and the public's trust in the legal profession.”(1)
For the story, see Greenville attorney disbarred after embezzlement accusations.

For the ruling of the state bar's Disciplinary Hearing Committee, see The North Carolina State Bar v. William I. Diggs, 16 DHC 15 (2016).
(1) The Client Security Fund was established by the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1984 to reimburse clients who have suffered financial loss as the result of dishonest conduct of lawyers engaged in the private practice of law in North Carolina. The loss must be one that was caused by the dishonest conduct of the lawyer acting either as an attorney or as a fiduciary in the matter in which the loss arose. The loss to be paid to any one client shall not exceed $100,000 as the result of the dishonest conduct of one lawyer.

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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