Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ohio Supremes Yank Attorney's Law License For Pilfering $150K+ In Client Funds; Investigator Unable To Determine True Financial Harm Suffered By Victims Because Lawyer's Crappy Trust Account Records Were In Shambles, Replete With False Statements

In Lisbon, Ohio, the Morning Journal News reports:
  • Former local attorney Virginia Barborak has been disbarred for misusing more than $150,000 in client funds and then trying to conceal it from her clients and the courts.

    The unanimous ruling issued [] by the Ohio Supreme Court comes six months after the court’s Board of Professional Conduct had recommended Barborak be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law. The court said its decision to take a tougher position was warranted given her “six-year pattern of dishonesty.”

    “Given Barborak’s lengthy and disturbing pattern of failing to maintain records of client funds entrusted to her, misappropriating client funds, and intentionally submitting false and fraudulent documents to the courts of this state — which are more serious and more pervasive than the cases cited in support of the recommended indefinite suspension — we conclude that permanent disbarment is the only appropriate sanction in this case,” the court said.

    According to the court, Barborak began misappropriating money from three estates and one education trust fund starting in 2009 and continuing into 2015, using the funds to “not only pay herself and her personal business expenses but also to make disbursements” to other clients and estates.

    Estate funds deposited into an attorney trust account can only be transferred or spent to settle that particular estate and pay related expenses. Barborak, who also once served as an assistant county prosecutor and Lisbon village solicitor, admitted that at one point her client trust fund had a balance of $11,709 when the actual balance should have been $171,481 because the money had been spent elsewhere other than its intended use.

    Barborak not only failed to maintain adequate records documenting these transactions or file them in a timely manner with probate court, “the few reports she actually filed were replete with false statements designed to mislead and misinform probate court” as to the true balance in the account, the Supreme Court said.

    Although the Board of Professional Conduct stipulated that Barborak has made full restitution, the accountant used by the Columbiana County Bar Association — which received the initial complaint — was unable to determine if a “true balance” existed for any of the estates because the records were in such a shambles. Due to Barborak’s poor record keeping, the board was unable to determine whether any of her other clients or beneficiaries had been harmed by her conduct.

    The Supreme Court said it was rejecting the board’s recommendation of an indefinite suspension, which left the door open for Barborak to seek reinstatement of her law license, because of the totality of the evidence, which included the fact she had continued to practice law six months after telling the board she had “removed” herself from private practice.

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