Sunday, July 02, 2017

Soon After Getting Bar Boot For Allegedly Siphoning Cash From Client Trust Account, Ex-Lawyer Now Faces Civil Lawsuit Accusing Him Of Swiping $176K Paid By City When It Took Clients' Real Estate In Eminent Domain Case

In Tallahassee, Florida, the Tallahassee Democrat reports:
  • A group of Tallahassee residents is suing their former attorney, Henry C. Hunter, alleging he pocketed $176,275 given to them by the city in exchange for their land in an eminent domain case.

    The plaintiffs also named the city as defendants, alleging it failed to put the money in a court registry and instead gave it directly to Hunter, whose law license was revoked in April. In a separate lawsuit, the plaintiffs are suing the city, claiming it doesn’t have legal title to the land.

    “These people are in a terribly unfortunate situation of having a governmental entity come in and take their property,” said one of their attorneys, C.B. Upton of Tallahassee. “And then the payout from the lawsuit for their property — they didn’t get any of it because their lawyer stole it.”

    According to the lawsuit, Hunter and the city entered into stipulated order on the land in 2013 that awarded the money to the plaintiffs. At the time, Hunter didn’t notify the plaintiffs about the agreement.

    The lawsuit says that under Florida statutes, the money was supposed to be deposited into the court registry. Instead, it was deposited in Hunter’s trust account. The plaintiffs didn’t learn about the cash until after Hunter collected.

    “Hunter never paid plaintiffs any of the $191,375 awarded to them under the stipulated order, although he repeatedly stated that he intended to release the funds to them in the near future,” the lawsuit says.

    Last year, the Florida Bar began investigating Hunter and found he misappropriated $351,000 in client funds from his trust fund account. Hunter, a former attorney for the city of Midway, didn’t contest disciplinary action against him. In April, the Florida Supreme Court permanently revoked his license in an action tantamount to disbarment.

    The plaintiffs are Chalmus Thomas, Cicero Hartsfield, Janie Reddings and Alveria Redding. Tallahassee attorney Stan Chapman also is representing the plaintiffs.

    “As an attorney and member of the Bar myself, it doesn’t get any more egregious than stealing money from a client,” Upton said. “That violates all of our oaths and trusts and just basic human decency.”

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