Thursday, June 15, 2017
Dan Trevas reports on the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
Mohammed Noure Alo has been suspended several times by the Supreme Court and did not respond to or participate in attempts by the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel to disbar him. In a unanimous per curiam decision, the Court accepted the Board of Professional Conduct’s recommended sanction.
Federal Conviction Triggered Suspensions
Alo was charged with conspiring with Amer Ahmad, former chief financial officer and deputy state treasurer, and others to commit bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. The federal government alleged that between 2009 and 2011, Alo help devise and participated in a scheme to use Ahmad’s position to improperly secure lucrative public brokerage deals for Douglas Hampton, a personal friend of Ahmad’s. In return, Hampton paid kickbacks to Ahmad, Alo, and others from the commissions he earned from the state.
Alo was charged in 2013 and pleaded guilty that year to wire fraud and admitted that at Ahmad’s direction, Hampton paid Alo more than $123,000 for legal services he did not perform. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and was required to forfeit the $123,000.
Based on the conviction, the professional conduct board found Alo violated several rules governing Ohio attorneys, including engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The Court imposed an interim suspension once it learned of the conviction.
In January 2015, the Court levied a separate interim default suspension after Alo failed to respond to charges involving numerous client matters that were not part of the Ahmad kickback scheme. In August 2015, that suspension was converted into an indefinite suspension after Alo failed to respond to an order asking why he had not responded to the charges. And in November 2015, he was suspended for failing to register as an attorney for the 2015-2017 biennium. In light of Alo’s continued failures to answer to the charges, the disciplinary counsel in July 2016 sought permanent disbarment.
Alo’s Misbehavior Costly
The opinion noted that the board considers several issues before recommending a sanction including aggravating circumstances that can increase a penalty, and mitigating factors that can lessen it. The board determined that Alo acted with a dishonest and selfish motive, had a prior disciplinary record, engaged in a pattern of misconduct, committed multiple offenses, caused harm to clients, and failed to cooperate in the disciplinary process. The board found no mitigating factors.
The opinion noted that in his previous disciplinary case, Alo was charged with wide-ranging professional misconduct violations relating to 10 client matters, mostly immigration cases, where he accepted retainers but failed to perform the work or return the clients’ money. The Court stated that “Alo in effect stole money from the clients whose matters were at issue.”
“Indeed, the board noted that as of June 2016, the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection had paid over $90,000 to Alo’s former clients because of his dishonest conduct. And our records indicate that since then, the fund has paid out an additional $140,623.62 to Alo’s former clients because of his retention of unearned fees,” the opinion stated.
The Court wrote the purpose of the attorney discipline system is to protect the public through a process that allows the Court to determine whether a lawyer is unfit to practice law.
“Given the scope and magnitude of Alo’s misconduct at issue in his two recent disciplinary cases—including his felony conviction, his misappropriation of client funds, and his complete failure to cooperate or participate in the disciplinary process—we conclude that he is no longer fit to practice law in Ohio,” the Court concluded.
Title is for you, Ross Dicker and Paul Burgoyne. (Mike Frisch)