Saturday, January 14, 2017

Attorney Suspected Of Embezzling $940K+ In Client Cash Among Four Lawyers Disciplined By Florida Supremes For Playing Fast & Loose w/ Their Clients' Funds &/Or Related Trust Account Records

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, recently announced that the Florida Supreme Court has disciplined 21 attorneys – effectively giving seven lawyers the boot (four by disbarment & three by disciplinary revocation), suspending seven others, and giving seven more a public slap on the hand (via a public reprimand).

Of the 21, the following four (4) have either been booted or indefinitely suspended amidst allegations of playing fast and loose with their clients' cash(1) and/or the related trust account records:
  • James Lee Clark, Tampa, suspended until further order effective 30 days from a Nov. 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Clark appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating at least $946,764 of client funds. (Case No. SC16-1994)

    Christopher R. Harris, Louisville, Ky., disbarred effective immediately, following an Oct. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) A compliance audit revealed that Harris continually had shortages in his trust account, commingled earned fees with client money, and paid personal expenses from his trust account. The audit further revealed that Harris did not maintain minimum trust accounting records and procedures. In at least two instances, despite promises, Harris failed and refused to refund money to clients. (Case No. SC16-348)

    Tonja J. Helton, Tampa. The Supreme Court granted Helton’s request for a disciplinary revocation, effective immediately, following an Oct. 27 court order, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Helton includes allegations of misappropriation of client funds. (Case No. SC16-1546)

    Dale Eugene Krout, Jr., Naples, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Nov. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Krout was found in contempt for failure to comply with a grievance committee subpoena to produce certain trust account records. (Case No. SC16-1628)
Source: Supreme Court Disciplines 21 Attorneys (Summaries of orders issued Oct. 13 – Nov. 28, 2016).

Editor's Note: Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps.
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(1) The Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help (at least partially) 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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