Sunday, January 22, 2017

Convicted Ex-Lawyer Ordered To Reimburse $329K To State's Client Security Fund For Money Shelled Out To Some Of His Embezzlement Victims

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The Oklahoman reports:
  • A former Norman attorney was ordered Monday [January 9] to pay more than a half-million dollars in restitution stemming from an embezzlement scheme that his attorney blamed on "an alcoholic downward spiral."(1)

    In 2011, Dane Thomas Wilson was a personal injury attorney who would receive funds from insurance companies upon settlement of his clients' claims, according to court documents.

    But Oklahoma City federal prosecutors alleged many of Wilson's clients never received any money from the settlements obtained on their behalf.

    Wilson, now 61, was charged in February with wire fraud and willful failure to file a 2011 federal income tax return. He pleaded guilty to both counts the same month.

    Wilson admitted he deposited client funds into a client trust account but would write checks and make cash withdrawals from the account that exceeded attorney fees, according to prosecutors.

    "The victims and loss amounts are a result of Mr. Wilson embezzling his clients' insurance money while he represented them as their attorney on personal injury cases in 2011 and while he was in an alcoholic downward spiral," Wilson's attorney wrote in a court document.

    U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGuisti sentenced Wilson in December to 30 months in prison for the crimes.

    On Monday, the judge ordered Wilson to pay $329,398 in restitution to the Oklahoma Bar Association, which has reimbursed some of Wilson's clients through the Client Security Fund.(2)

    Wilson was ordered to pay $141,772 to 19 other former clients in various amounts ranging from about $200 to more than $75,000.

    Wilson was ordered to pay $53,836 to the IRS.

    Wilson was admitted into the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1999. The Oklahoma Supreme Court approved his resignation in February 2012.
Source: Former Norman attorney ordered to pay more than half a million dollars in restitution.
(1) 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 (although Professor Miller's essay is over a quarter-century old, it appears that his observations maintain their vitality to this day):
  • 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.

(2) The Clients' Security Fund is a fund established by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reimburse clients who suffer loss of money or other property from the dishonest conduct of their Oklahoma-licensed attorney. The Fund is a remedy of last resort for clients who cannot be repaid or recover money from other sources, such as insurance, a bonding company or from the attorney involved. Claimants are expected to make reasonable efforts to collect from these other sources first before submitting a claim to the Fund.

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.