Friday, August 11, 2017
The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred an attorney who had previously been disbarred for misappropriation.
Lafollette Press noted his recent plea to theft charges.
The Knoxville News Sentinel had reported
A Campbell County attorney who also serves as a municipal judge for LaFollette, Tenn., has been suspended after admitting he stole more than $220,000 from clients, records show.
The Tennessee Supreme Court late last week ordered Wesley Hatmaker suspended from the practice of law amid an investigation of thefts from client trust accounts spanning years and a filing of disciplinary charges against him by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.
The BPR, which polices attorneys, asked for the immediate suspension of Hatmaker's license on Jan. 28. Disciplinary counsel William C. Moody wrote in the suspension petition Hatmaker "had misappropriated funds and poses a substantial harm to the public."
In documents provided by the board to the News Sentinel on Friday, a series of thefts are outlined, including one in which Hatmaker repeatedly lied over a period of years to the executor of an estate he was supposed to represent.
Hatmaker's attorney, Thomas S. Scott Jr., sent two separate letters to the board on Jan. 26 in which he said Hatmaker admitted the thefts alleged in a formal complaint filed by the estate executor, as well as lying to the executor, and disclosed two other thefts involving client estates.
In the first incident in which a complaint was filed with the board on Jan. 21, Kelly L. Ray of Ohio said she discovered Hatmaker had received a check in 2009 totaling $20,731 that was supposed to have gone to the estate of which she had been appointed as executor. Hatmaker "informed me that the estate needed to remain open for a set amount of time to allow TennCare to file a claim against the estate, should they choose to do so," Ray wrote.
He later told Ray that TennCare had filed a claim and, over the next five years, concocted various stories about why the hearing was delayed, including that a judge had died, another judge "didn't like" Hatmaker and a third judge had awarded TennCare half the money, records show. None of that was true, attorney Scott conceded in his letter on behalf of Hatmaker.
In the two remaining thefts, Hatmaker admitted to the board he stole at least $163,000 from a dead man's estate to cover what Scott said was a $160,000 embezzlement by Hatmaker's wife, Thalia M. Hatmaker, from a Knoxville country club, and another $39,000 from the estate of another dead man. Both thefts occurred in 2009, the letter stated.
Thalia Hatmaker is charged in Knox County with a tax-related financial conspiracy crime. The details were not provided in a Criminal Court file. Wesley Hatmaker has not been charged.
Hatmaker has been licensed to practice law since 1991 and served as traffic court judge for Lafollette.