December 10, 2012
From Debt Relief To Disbarment
The December 2012 California Bar Journal reports a disciplinary sanction:
[An attorney] was disbarred Oct. 6, 2012, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
[He] stipulated to 52 counts of misconduct in 13 cases, all but one involving his representation of clients who were attempting to obtain loan modifications. He agreed to make restitution totaling $1.226 million in 11 of the matters.
[The attorney] ran a law firm called Debt Relief Law Center that handled loan modifications, settlements of second mortgages and bankruptcy. In a typical matter, he accepted an advance fee as well as substantial sums from clients wishing to settle second mortgages, but he did no work, misappropriated the money and did not refund unearned fees. He closed his law office without notifying his clients or taking steps to protect their interests and said he was filing for bankruptcy. He also broke state law by accepting advance fees for loan modification work, violating the civil code.
One client was told that [he] had settled his second mortgage for $97,500 and he needed to deposit that amount in [his] client trust account immediately. [He] did not provide a copy of a settlement agreement, despite several requests, and when the client went to his office and reviewed the file, he learned there was no settlement.
[He] deposited some client funds in his business account, rather than his trust account, and did not settle any matters. He misappropriated $318,032.41 from one couple, nearly $175,000 from another individual and $153,092.38, $111,135.90 and $143,680.06 from others.
[He] stipulated that he was having severe financial problems at the time due to separating from his wife, and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and stipulated to disbarment. He was publicly reproved in February 2012 for failing to perform legal services competently, return client files, refund unearned fees or communicate with clients.
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