Friday, November 28, 2008
An attorney who had defaulted on charges of theft of entrusted funds was disbarred by the North Dakota Supreme Court. The court described the charges as follows:
The Petition alleges Sletten was the attorney for Anita Hopkins, an elderly widow. Sletten informed Hopkins her estate could have a substantial tax burden and she should reduce her estate through a gifting plan. Hopkins turned over approximately $300,000 in certificates of deposit and other investments to Sletten, which he held in his trust account. Hopkins died in November, 2005, without having named any gift beneficiaries. By June 2007, Sletten transferred funds held for Hopkins from his trust account for his personal use, along with an additional $40,000 belonging to another client.
On July 24, 2007, an Amended Petition for Discipline was filed. The Amended Petition asserts that in 2005 Sletten assisted in the sale of a farm owned by Richard and Elizabeth Conklin. The proceeds from the sale totaled approximately $180,000, which was held in Sletten's trust account. Approximately $84,000 of the Conklins' money was used for Sletten's personal or office use without the client's knowledge or consent.
The Amended Petition further asserts Sletten held money in his trust account for client Sally Mehlhoff. Sletten gave Mehlhoff a check from his trust account in the amount of $11,822.95, but when Mehlhoff tried to negotiate the check she was told there were insufficient funds to pay the check. The money was used for Sletten's personal or office use without the client's knowledge or consent.
The Amended Petition further asserts Sletten was the attorney for the Nels Peterson Estate and took in excess of $100,000 from the Estate for personal or office use without the client's knowledge or consent. Finally, the Amended Petition asserts Sletten was the attorney for the John Vanderwerff Estate, which owned lots in Garrison. Sletten sold the lots for $12,000, and after taxes, the remaining amount of $5,835.76 was paid to the Sletten Law Office. After paying some minor costs, Sletten took approximately $5,508.76 from the Estate for his personal or office use without the client's knowledge or consent.
The court also ordered restitution as part of the discipline. (Mike Frisch)