Sunday, September 30, 2012

Florida High Court Sanctions Seven Attorneys For Playing Fast, Loose With Clients' Cash

In a recent news release, The Florida Bar recently announced that the state Supreme Court disciplined 24 attorneys, disbarring eight and suspending 13. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One attorney was placed on probation; three attorneys were publicly reprimanded; and four were ordered to pay restitution.

Among those making the hit parade are the following for playing fast and loose with their clients' money:

  1. William A. Abruzzino, 150 Trotter Ridge Drive, Mooresville, N.C., disbarred for 10 years, effective retroactive to June 1, 2011, following a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Abruzzino was arrested and charged with a first degree felony for exploitation of the elderly. Abruzzino's misappropriation of his Alzheimer's/dementia- afflicted client's funds resulted in a sentence of five years in prison, followed by probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $202,020.50 to the client. (Case No. SC11-1308)
  2. Larry Herbert Colleton, P.O. Box 677459, Orlando, suspended for six months, effective 30 days from a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Colleton engaged in a pattern of misconduct. In several separate instances, Colleton was retained to represent clients and he failed to communicate and failed to provide adequate and timely representation. He also failed to maintain proper trust account records and he failed to follow proper trust accounting procedures. (Case Nos. SC11-1459 and SC12-177)
  3. Karen Sue Keaton, P.O. Box 1139, St. Petersburg, to be publicly reprimanded by the Board of Governors following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Keaton had a long-time personal and familial relationship with a client that she agreed to assist in an estate planning matter. In the preparation of the trust, several amendments were made. Keaton violated Bar rules by being named a contingent beneficiary. (Case No. SC10-1144)
  4. Cedric Eugene Lewis, 631 Heather Glen Loop, Winter Haven, disbarred effective retroactive to June 18, 2009, following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Lewis was the subject of a Bar disciplinary proceeding stemming in part from an employee's theft of funds from Lewis’ real estate trust account. Lewis failed to produce trust and financial documents pursuant to two Grievance Committee subpoenas. After a 2009 suspension, Lewis was required to provide the Bar with an affidavit verifying that he’d notified his clients, opposing counsel and certain courts of his suspension. Again, he failed to comply. Lewis was also ineligible to practice law due to CLER and other delinquencies. (Case No. SC12-1076)
  5. Mark Vernon Morsch, 5151 Garlanger Trail, Oviedo, disbarred effective immediately, following a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Morsch was the subject of several Bar disciplinary matters. In one instance he misappropriated more than $28,000 of a client's settlement funds and used the money for his own purposes. He then misrepresented to the client and the Bar that potential claims against the estate were paid. (Case No. SC11-1310 and SC11-2095)
  6. James Thomas Roslund, P.O. Box 36196, Detroit, MI, suspended until further order, following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Roslund appeared to be causing great public harm. Roslund is also licensed to practice in Michigan. After representing a Michigan client in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, Roslund authorized the client to make direct monthly payment deductions to cover his fee. The client subsequently requested a receipt and offered to settle the balance in a final lump sum payment. Roslund failed to respond to the client's requests, failed to fully refund the client and failed to respond to Michigan Bar counsel. (Case No. SC12-1158)
  7. Linda Marie Smith, 11900 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 503, Miami, to be publicly reprimanded following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979) Smith used an account number as both a trust account and an operating account, depositing and disbursing client trust funds as well as earned fees and day-to-day operating expenses. Those actions resulted in the commingling of trust and personal funds, although a Bar review did not reveal misuse or misappropriation of client funds. (Case No. SC12-1075)
For The Florida Bar press release, see Supreme Court Disciplines 24 Attorneys.

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