Thursday, June 28, 2012

Attorney Suspected Of Moving Nearly $200K Of Client's Cash Into Firm's Bank Account Now Facing Felony Charges

In Raleigh, North Carolina, The News & Observer reports:

  • A Raleigh lawyer faces embezzlement and forgery charges after prosecutors say he took more than $30,000 that belonged to his clients. Nicholas Andrew Stratas Jr. was released from the Wake County jail Friday on $20,000 bond.

  • The felony charges aren’t the only problem facing Stratas, 54. The North Carolina State Bar has also filed a complaint against Stratas, saying he took clients’ money held in trust. A hearing later this year could result in Stratas losing his law license.
  • Last week, a Wake County grand jury accused Stratas of taking more than $30,000 from two clients between March 2010 and June 2011. One of the cases involves Laura Candes, who hired Stratas to pursue an injury settlement after her car was rear-ended on Interstate 440 near Crabtree Valley Mall.

  • The collision left Candes, 69, with persistent back pain, according to her husband, Chris. The bar’s complaint against Stratas says the attorney settled the case without the family’s permission. A $24,000 insurance check was deposited into the firm’s bank account, and the family has not received any money, the complaint says.

  • Stratas cashed the check and kept the money after the couple refused to accept the settlement offer, said Chris Candes, former owner of the well-known Two Guys Italian restaurant on Hillsborough Street. “I’ve known him for 25 years,” Chris Candes said in an interview Wednesday. “I felt betrayed. I considered him a friend.”

  • A disciplinary hearing on the Candes case and others has been set by the state bar for Sept. 6 and 7. Stratas has been prohibited from being involved in any financial matters related to his practice since the bar began its investigation in December. The bar alleges that Stratas moved nearly $200,000 of clients’ money into the firm’s account.(1)

(1) The North Carolina State Bar Client Security Fund was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to misappropriation or embezzle­ment by a North Carolina-licensed attorney. Request for possible reimbursement can be made with this reimbursement application form.

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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