September 30, 2010
The Ohio Supreme Court web page reports a decision yesterday:
[A] Toledo attorney has been permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court of Ohio for multiple violations of state attorney discipline rules arising from his involvement in a criminal conspiracy that induced approximately 3,000 real estate agents and appraisers to join two professional organizations with the false promise that their membership dues purchased errors-and-omissions insurance coverage that did not in fact exist.
In a 5-2 per curiam opinion, the Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that between 1997 and 2001 [the attorney] induced real estate professionals to purchase memberships in the American Real Estate Association (AREA) and the Noble Group by falsely representing that as a benefit of membership they would receive errors-and-omissions insurance coverage from Midwest Insurance Company. During the investigation of his misconduct, [the attorney] admitted that Midwest, an offshore entity formed by one of his co-conspirators, was never licensed to provide insurance in the United States, and the promised errors-and-omissions policies never existed.
In imposing the ultimate sanction of permanent disbarment, the Court noted that while [he] voluntarily ended his involvement in the scheme in 2001, he did nothing to stop or alert law enforcement officials to the ongoing fraud, which continued for several years until it was discovered by federal authorities. In 2006 [he] entered a guilty plea to a felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. He was subsequently sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $3.7 million in restitution. His law license has been on inactive status since January 2007.
The Court rejected objections raised by [the attorney] to the severity of his sanction, pointing to the long period of time he participated in the conspiracy, the large number of fraudulent transactions in which he was involved and the cumulative financial damage suffered by thousands of victims.
The majority opinion was joined by Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Maureen O’Connor, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert R. Cupp.
Chief Justice Eric Brown entered a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, stating that he would impose the sanction originally requested by the Toledo Bar Association and recommended by the hearing panel that heard the charges against [the attorney], which was an indefinite suspension with no credit for the time his license was under interim suspension.
The court's decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
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