Thursday, June 6, 2013

Attorney Ripoff Reimbursement Fund Again The Focus Of Recovery-Seeking Victims Of Scam Involving Closing Lawyer's Role In Failure To Convey Clear Title To Condos Peddled By Non-Lawyer Real Estate Developer

In Edmonton, Alberta, the Edmonton Journal reports:

  • They’ve been left with less than nothing: lawsuits and creditors, and mortgages to nowhere.

    Fifteen months after the Leduc Fire Department issued an emergency evacuation order for Bellavera Green condos, and the troubled development hit the news, former condo owners are wondering why they weren’t protected from walking into impending financial collapse, a disaster that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

    Most had secured mortgages for at least two condos. Several bought three or four, unaware the project was helmed by a convicted mortgage fraudster.
  • Former condo board president Darryl Short considers himself comparatively lucky. The 33-year-old mechanical engineering technologist still has a house in Edmonton. Unlike those who lost their only home, his loss was an investment. Like other condo owners, Short’s $444,000 disappeared after his lawyer transferred the money to [developer Kevyn] Frederick’s lawyer.

    Expecting to receive encumbrance-free titles to his condos, Short has instead had two years’ of financial headaches over fights with mortgage companies and encounters with a legal system.

    Many claimants have refocused legal efforts on the lawyers who processed the deals. The biggest flurry is against Leslie Meiklejohn, the lawyer Frederick hired to process condo sales.

    With 43 years’ experience in Alberta, Meiklejohn is best known for representing dozens of Edmonton claimants for residential school abuse. With Bellavera, he was entrusted to give buyers clear titles and to pay off Frederick’s creditors. That never happened.

    Meiklejohn is involved in bankruptcy proceedings and declined to comment “for both personal and legal reasons.”

    Ironwood [Financial] and other lenders have been wrangling with the Alberta Law Society(1) over Meiklejohn’s $2-million insurance policy — the mandatory minimum for Alberta lawyers — and the possibility of additional money to cover their debts.

    The ALS won’t comment on ongoing cases, but it does have an assurance fund to cover cases in which lawyers misappropriate trust money.(2) Since 2000, it has paid out nearly $5 million.

    Although the fund may be Short’s last avenue to recoup his money, he isn’t holding his breath.

(1) The Law Society of Alberta is a self-governing body for Alberta, Canada's lawyers with a mandate to regulate the legal profession in the public interest (it is, in effect, the 'state bar' for Alberta). 

(2) The Law Society of Alberta maintains an Assurance Fund to compensate clients for misappropriation or wrongful use of trust money or missing trust funds by their Alberta-licensed lawyer. Go here for the Assurance Fund Claims Guideline.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other Canadian provinces and states throughout the U.S., see:

Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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