Another Aging Lawyer To Begin Retirement Years In Prison, Getting Four Years For Embezzling Over $600K From Over A Dozen Clients
- A former Cleveland attorney was sentenced  to four years in prison for stealing more than $600,000 from clients.(1)
[Paul] Kaufman, 67, of Shaker Heights, had been charged with one count of theft, 20 counts of identity fraud, and 20 counts of forgery. The offenses took place between 2009 and 2014.
Investigators said Kaufman would win judgments or settlements for his clients, forge their names on checks, and pocket the funds. They said that sometimes he eventually paid his clients some or all of their money -- though usually only after repeated complaints -- and sometimes he never gave them anything.
There were at least 15 victims.
Some of his clients have been made whole or at least partially compensated through the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection,(2) a program created by the Ohio Supreme Court to reimburse victims of attorney theft, embezzlement or misappropriation.(3) Money in the fund comes from registration fees paid by every Ohio attorney.
- 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.
(3) 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:
- Directory Of Lawyers' Funds For Client Protection (August 2016) (includes a listing for Canadian client protection funds, courtesy of the American Bar Association);
- Check the USA Client Protection Funds Map;
- Check the Canada Client Protection Funds Map.