Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bail Set At $195K For Suspended Lawyer Who Got Pinched For Allegedly Fleecing Dead Client's Estate Of Nearly $200K

In Indio, California, the San Bernardino Sun reports:
  • A former San Bernardino-based attorney who allegedly drained a nearly $200,000 trust account that he was entrusted with setting up for clients involved in an estate dispute pleaded not guilty today [May 10] to embezzlement and money laundering charges.(1)

    Martin Edgar Keller, 63, is charged with four counts of money laundering and one count each of embezzlement and grand theft.

    Keller was tasked with placing $206,635.07 into a trust account until the children and other trustees of a deceased woman’s estate could settle how to distribute the funds, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.

    The document states that $194,825 was later found to be missing. An investigation determined that Keller allegedly drained the trust account by writing checks to himself or electronically transferring funds to other accounts he controlled.

    The declaration alleges that at least some of the money was used for lease payments for Keller’s San Bernardino office and late fees.

    Law enforcement began investigating in 2015, after one of the woman’s sons, a Palm Desert man, told deputies that the money was missing and he believed Keller had embezzled it, the declaration states.

    A sheriff’s deputy stated that the last statement he viewed for the account showed that just over $50 was left, according to court documents.

    A lawyer representing the woman’s son said in court documents that Keller was declared ineligible to practice law starting in October 2014, about two years after he deposited the money into the trust account. However, the attorney said “Mr. Keller continues to be an involuntarily inactive member of the Bar” and “has been totally unresponsive to multiple attempts to contact him.”

    The State Bar of California also disciplined Keller for various violations, including misconduct, for allegedly failing to file paperwork in his clients’ cases and ignoring their attempts to contact him, according to disciplinary documents from the State Bar. His law license was suspended twice, once for 30 days and the second time for six months.

    Keller was arrested last week and is being held on $195,000 bail, according to jail records
Source: Former San Bernardino-based attorney pleads not guilty to embezzling nearly $200K.
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(1) The California State Bar's Client Security Fund is a discretionary fund that can reimburse clients who have lost money or property due to theft or dishonesty by a California lawyer. It is a State Bar program funded entirely by California lawyers. The amount the fund may reimburse for theft committed by a California lawyer depends on when the loss occurred. A maximum of $50,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred before January 1, 2009. A maximum of $100,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred on or after January 1, 2009.

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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