Sunday, July 30, 2017

Florida Supremes Order Emergency Suspension Pending Further Probe For Lawyer Accused Of Dubious Dealing$ Involving Over $250K Belonging To Aging, Vulnerable Clients

In Tallahassee, Florida, the Florida Record reports:
  • Clermont attorney Dennis L. Horton has been suspended until further order following a May 3 Florida Supreme Court order for allegations of financial irregularities involving elderly clients and using trust funds to cover operating account overdrafts.

    A state bar investigation turned up "significant overdrafts" in Horton's operating account in 2015 and 2016, according to the petition for emergency suspension filed by the Florida State Bar. "Finally, [Horton] obtained improper loans from elderly clients to cover overdrafts in his operating account and to cover personal and business expenses," the petition said.

    The state bar announced the discipline June 29. The emergency suspension was authorized by state bar Executive Director John "Jack" Harkness Jr., whose successor, former FBI special agent Joshua Doyle, was announced in early June.

    Horton was admitted to the bar Dec. 20, 1974. He had no other discipline before the state bar in at least 10 years.

    The state bar's audit of Horton's operating and personal checking accounts from July 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2016, revealed repeated and significant overdrafts, according to the petition, according to the petition. Horton's operating account incurred overdraft fees of $5,565 in 2015 and $6,265 in 2016, according to the petition.

    Horton also engaged in questionable financial transactions involving elderly clients, including using power of attorney in August 2016 to move $30,000 from the checking account of a 75-year-old client in deteriorating health into his trust account.

    Other allegations in the petition included a $90,000 loan to Horton from a 74-year-old client and checks totaling $139,540 over about two years issued by Horton from the checking account of an 85-year-old assisted living facility resident into the operating account.

    Horton "has caused, or is likely to cause, immediate and serious harm to clients and/or the public and that immediate action must be taken for the protection of the respondent's clients and the public," the petition said.

    The conditions of Horton's emergency suspension include not disbursing or withdrawing trust account money without approval from the Florida Supreme Court.

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