Attorney Pinched For Allegedly Stealing Couple's Insurance Settlement Check, Forging Their Signatures, & Pocketing The Cash; Faces Larceny, Fraud Charges
In Boynton Beach, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
- When a Boynton Beach couple's car was stolen, their insurance company cut them a check to cover it.
But police say the woman's attorney stole the $6,300 check, forging their signatures and depositing it in her personal bank account, which at the time carried a negative balance.
Kathleen Plunkett, who had represented the woman as the couple sought a divorce last year, was arrested  by Lantana Police. She was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on larceny and fraud charges, and released later that day on $3,000 bail.
The 45-year-old family law attorney, who goes by Kathleen Davis professionally and owned the Law Offices of Kathleen M. P. Davis in Greenacres, declined to talk about her arrest. "Unfortunately, despite my First Amendment rights, as an attorney I cannot comment," she said on Thursday.
Christian Desiderio said he knew something was wrong when he repeatedly asked Plunkett for the check, which was mailed in March 2012, and she repeatedly put him off. It was made out to Desiderio and his ex-wife and mailed to Plunkett because the couple was still married at the time, he said.
Eventually, Desiderio called GEICO and found out someone cashed the check. He asked for a copy.
"Here comes back the check with my and ex's names signed on the back," said Desiderio, who called police in June 2012. "I just lost it. I could not believe it. I couldn't believe that somebody signed my name."
He said he's never seen a cent of the money and doesn't know what happened to it.
"I'd like for her to tell me," Desiderio said. "I'd like for her to repay everybody."
When officers first met with Plunkett, she admitted to signing the Desiderios names on the check and depositing it in her account, according to her arrest report. She said that was "normal business" when dealing with two-party checks.
A review of Plunkett's bank account showed it had a balance of -$414.57 before the deposit, the report states. In the next few weeks, she wrote four checks for a total of more than $3,000, including one for $900 that she cashed herself.
It wasn't the first time Plunkett's firm ran into trouble. Florida Bar records show her license to practice law was suspended May 30, after she failed to respond to multiple Bar inquiries about a complaint filed against her in February 2012.
In March 2010, she was publically reprimanded by the Bar, placed on a one-year probation and ordered to repay two former clients. The clients filed complaints after paying thousands of dollars to Plunkett for her services, then learning she never filed a single document on their behalf.
Desiderio said he's still angry about the stolen money, which he'd planned to spend on a new car for his daughter.
"I'm just glad they got her," Desiderio said of Plunkett. "And I hope she gets what she gets, because that was just low."(1)
(1) The Florida Bar's Clients' Security Fund was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to misappropriation or embezzlement by a Florida-licensed attorney.
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:
- Directory Of Lawyers' Funds For Client Protection (now includes Canadian recovery funds, courtesy of the American Bar Association);
- Check the USA Client Protection Funds Map;
- Check the Canada Client Protection Funds Map.