Sunday, March 12, 2017

Attorney Faces Theft By Deception Charge For Allegedly Pilfering $180K From 87-Year Old Client Who Sought His Help For Estate Planning; Probe Triggered By Suspicious Nursing Home Official Who Noticed Cash Being Diverted From Victim's Bank Account

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, KDKA-TV Channel 2 reports:
  • A Washington County lawyer is accused of stealing from an elderly client.(1)

    Michael Alberty, 57, is charged with theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial.

    The alleged victim is an 87-year-old woman who had been staying at the Norbert Elderly Care Home. Alberty was originally called by the victim for help on her estate plan and South Side home restoration project,

    Police became aware of the situation when a Norbert Elderly Care Home official told officers she believed that Alberty had used “undue influence” over the victim to divert money from the victim’s bank account for his own benefit.

    Police say Alberty continuously instructed the victim to sign checks that he told her were payments for construction workers who were remodeling her home.

    But, over a period of six and a half months, $180,470 of the victim’s money was paid to Alberty’s account.(2)

    The victim’s case was referred to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services – Agency On Aging, resulting in an elder financial abuse audit.

    Alberty told the auditor that he was paid as a construction consultant and personal assistant. At one point he told the auditor that the victim was a millionaire and that she could afford this.

    He provided alleged contracts for this arrangement, but the victim told officials she had never seen the documents and that her middle name was misspelled in them.

    When the victim was made aware of how much of her money had been directed into Alberty’s account, she said she was unaware and said that he “needs to be thrown in jail.”
Source: Washington Co. Lawyer Charged With Stealing $180K From Elderly Client.
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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 (while 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 Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security which was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients (at least partially, if not fully) who have suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pennsylvania attorney.

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.

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