Saturday, January 21, 2017

Vegas Attorney Hit With Indictment For Alleged Theft Of $2.1 Million In Client Funds; Prosecutor: "This Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg!" More Victims Expected, Embezzled Loot Could Exceed $15 Million

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:
  • Embattled probate lawyer Robert Graham was arrested [] after being indicted by a Clark County grand jury in connection with the theft of $2.1 million from clients.(1)

    He faces three felony counts each of theft and exploitation of an older/vulnerable person, and two gross misdemeanor counts of destroying evidence.

    Chief Deputy District Attorney J.P. Raman said in court [] that Graham may have stolen more than $15 million from his clients.(2)

    Records show that Graham was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on $5 million bail.

    District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a news release that the investigation is ongoing and he expects to file more charges.

    We felt it was necessary to quickly seek an indictment on this case to ensure that evidence was preserved and that Mr. Graham was unable to cause any further financial damage to families in our community,” Wolfson said. ”Attorneys are held to a high ethical standard, which evokes a certain level of trust from their clients, and the violation of that trust is unacceptable.”

    The State Bar of Nevada filed a complaint against Graham last month alleging that he stole millions of dollars from dozens of clients before abruptly closing his Lawyers West office in Summerlin on Dec. 2.

    Las Vegas police and the FBI have been jointly investigating the disappearance of the funds.

    The indictment alleges Graham stole $2.1 million from clients in three of his cases between July 9, 2013, and Dec. 2, 2016. Two of the cases involved elderly victims and one involved a “vulnerable” victim, according to the indictment.

    “But this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Raman said. “There will be many, many more victims and much more monetary theft.”

    While Graham shuttered his firm, he logged into a corporate “Dropbox” account and deleted nearly 3,000 files that related to clients, wire transfers and operations, according to the prosecutor.

    “He’s facing extremely serious criminal charges — not only what we have on him today, but what we’ll be bringing in the future,” Raman said. “He will obviously be facing significant punishment when he answers to the full scope of the crimes committed.”
    ***
    Just days after shutting down his office, Graham turned over possession of a $1 million home in Fort Collins, Colorado, to his wife.
For more, see Las Vegas lawyer accused of stealing millions from clients arrested.
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(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 sure as hell 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 State Bar of Nevada established the Clients’ Security Fund in 1970 to compensate victims of lawyer theft.

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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