December 17, 2007
Duty To Supervise
A South Carolina lawyer hired an non-lawyer to assist with the preparation and closing of real estate transactions. The lawyer then suffered a serious heart ailment and decided, in order to reduce his stress, to have the assistant manage his trust account. The assistant embezzled over $238,000 by forging the attorney's signature to checks.
When the lawyer learned that a check was dishonored, he initiated an audit and promptly notified the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC"). Further, according to the South Carolina Supreme Court:
"...with the best interests of his clients in mind, respondent had the foresight to: 1) obtain fidelity insurance coverage in the amount of $100,000 (which has been paid in full towards the amounts embezzled); 2) deposit $43,000 of his personal funds into the trust account to cover the shortages caused by Knowles’ embezzlement; and 3) obtain through errors and omissions coverage and insured closing arrangements with his title company ample funds available to compensate all victims of Knowles’ embezzlement, except for possibly himself."
The court imposed public reprimand, which had been proposed by the attorney and the ODC. (MIke Frisch)
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