Sunday, June 04, 2017

Another Aging Lawyer Wraps Up Decades-Long (40 Years) Career By Being Frogmarched Out Of Tennessee Courtroom To Begin 15-Year Prison Stay After Pleading Guilty To 'Grave-Robbing' $763K From His Dead Clients (& Their Heirs, Beneficiaries)

In Sullivan County, Tennessee, the Bristol Herald Courier reports:
  • A disbarred Bristol, Tennessee attorney who stole nearly $800,000 from clients was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday [May 22].

    Don W. Cooper pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft involving the estates of four clients in Sullivan County Criminal Court Monday, according to Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus.

    Cooper stole a total of $763,000 from four estates, according to court documents.(1) Cooper immediately began serving his sentence after he was sentenced.

    He practiced law in Bristol, Tennessee for 40 years, primarily handling wills, estates and trusts. Cooper was suspended from practicing law in December 2015 for misappropriation of client funds, according to court documents.

    At the request of Staubus, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began investigating Cooper in November 2015. Sullivan County Chancery Court Clerk Katie Priester aided in the investigation.

    It found that between August 2012 and October 2013, Cooper pocketed more than $304,000 from the $1.3 million estate of Alva Frye. Between December 2008 and November 2009, Cooper stole $52,000 from the estate of Phyllis Pendergrass. The bulk of that money was supposed to go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

    The investigation also found that from April 2006 to October 2015, Cooper took a total of $350,000 from seven trusts out of the $2 million estate of Anthony Tiller. And in 2010, he kept $57,000 from the sale of property belonging to the estate of Helen Shipley.

    Cooper was disbarred in February and ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution to multiple estates and trusts.
Source: Former Bristol, Tenn. attorney sentenced to 15 years on theft charges.
(1) The Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection was established to reimburse claimants for losses caused by dishonest conduct committed by lawyers duly licensed to practice in the state.

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.