Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Florida High Court Boots Three Attorneys, Disciplines Eight Others For Playing Fast & Loose With Clients' Cash

According to the latest issue of The Florida Bar's 'gossip sheet' which lists the names of twenty-one (21) attorneys who have been recently disciplined for a variety violations of ethical rules, the following eight (8) have been disciplined for playing fast and loose with their clients' money:

  1. Andrea Ruth Bateman, P.O. Box 104, Winter Park, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from a March 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Bateman was found in contempt for violating the terms of an October 2009 probation. She failed to submit quarterly trust account CPA reports and also failed to remit the quarterly monitoring fee on several occasions, accumulating arrearages of $700. (Case No. SC11-2323);

  2. Jennifer Aycock Bonifield, 1025 Professional Park Drive, Brandon, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from an April 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Bonifield was found in contempt for willfully failing to comply with a subpoena without good cause. The Bar was seeking copies of all Bonifield’s trust and operating account records. In July 2009, deposits to Bonifield’s escrow account totaled more than $856,000. Since that time, more than $575,000 has been electronically transferred from the account to Bonifield’s checking account. Bonifield failed to provide documentation for the transfers. She also failed to appear at the non-compliance hearing before the grievance committee in February. Stephan Tabano has been appointed as inventory attorney. (Case No. SC12-264);

  3. Robert W. Frazier Jr., 507 S.E. 11th Court, Fort Lauderdale, publicly reprimanded following a March 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1977) Frazier failed to comply with a March 2, 2011, court order mandating that he immediately furnish a copy of his emergency suspension order, (which is currently in effect) to all of his clients and the bank. Frazier notified his clients 30 days later, and he failed to notify the bank of the suspension. Because of his failure to immediately inform his clients, one client wired more than $156,000 to Frazier’s law firm’s trust account while he was suspended. Multiple other deposits and withdrawals went in and out of the account during that time as well. The transactions were completed without Frazier seeking approval of the Florida Supreme Court or referee, as the court order mandates. (Case No. SC11-867);

  4. Clifford Gorman, 3807 Ave. H, Unit B, Austin, Texas, disbarred, effective immediately, following a March 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Gorman received an inquiry from The Florida Bar regarding trust account funds that were requested by a client, but not disbursed. Gorman responded to the Bar by invoking the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Subsequently, a trust account subpoena was served upon Gorman, with which he has failed to comply. (Case No. SC12-324);

  5. Patricia A. Johnston, Calle Cesar Chavez 84, Arrecife de Lanzarote, Canary, Spain, disbarred for 10 years, following a March 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Johnston was the subject of several Bar complaints. She misappropriated client funds and engaged in other unethical conduct. In one instance, Johnston was removed as personal representative after she failed to provide information upon request about a $3 million estate, from which she took funds without authorization. In another matter, Johnston provided false misleading testimony in a civil collection matter in an attempt to hide the true nature of her spouse’s assets. Johnston abandoned her Orlando law practice, changed her bar status to retired and moved to Spain. (Case No. SC11-1767);

  6. Bruce Allan Lamchick, 9200 S. Dadeland Blvd., Suite 518, Miami, suspended for 90 days following an April 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) After being served a subpoena, Lamchick failed to provide complete bank and trust account records to the Bar. He also engaged in misconduct while serving as the closing agent for numerous real estate transactions. In another matter, while serving as a settlement agent, Lamchick notarized two signatures on a mortgage deed that were not signed in his presence. (Case No. SC11-1781);

  7. Doris Wellman Sanders, 2181 Crawfordville Highway, Crawfordville, disbarred, effective immediately, following a March 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) A Bar investigation indicated theft of funds by Sanders from a client’s revocable trust. The Bar's complaint contained the following allegations: While serving as the sole trustee of the trust, Sanders gave gifts to her boyfriend and relatives totaling more than $41,000. She also paid off two personal mortgages worth $95,000 and paid herself nearly $25,000 in attorney’s fees, but failed to provide a sufficient explanation as to what she did to earn the fees. Sanders agreed to disbarment. (Case No. SC11-1990);

  8. David M. Sostchin, 797 W. 18th St., Hialeah, publicly reprimanded following a March 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) Sostchin was retained to represent a client in a foreclosure proceeding in which a final order of foreclosure had already been issued and a sale date had been set. Although there were no defects in the underlying proceeding, Sostchin failed to ensure that the client was adequately informed of the status of the representation, and notwithstanding the eventual sale of the property, continued to accept monthly payments until the client ceased making payment. Upon learning of the sale of the property, the client went to the office and demanded an explanation. The firm issued a refund check in the amount of $2,295. (Case No. SC11-1471).
For the gossip sheet, see Supreme Court Disciplines 21 Attorneys.

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