Thursday, March 23, 2023
The Most Vulnerable
The criminal conviction has drawn an interim suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court.
A 70-year-old former attorney who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to her mostly elderly and special-needs clients was sentenced Wednesday to prison.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Saffold told Dorothea Kingsbury that placing her on probation after pleading guilty to second-degree felony theft and other charges for the years long scheme would “disrespect all of the truly bad deeds” she had committed.
Instead, the judge sentenced her to spend the next four years in prison.
“Of all of the people in the world to steal from, you picked the absolute most vulnerable among us,” Saffold said. “When I think of your behavior here, I’m stuck with the word ‘despicable.’ If you have remorse, I think you would agree with that statement.”
Kingsbury, who had asked Saffold to spare her a prison sentence, answered quietly, “Yes sir.”
Kingsbury, of Mayfield, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to theft and attempted theft -- both second-degree felonies -- as well as money laundering. She also pleaded guilty in a separate case to failing to file state income taxes for five years, which is a fifth-degree felony.
The charges carried a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in prison.
Kingsbury, whose legal career spanned four decades, agreed to forfeit her law license as part of the plea bargain. She also has repaid $125,000 and agreed to forfeit money in her retirement accounts to pay back the more than $500,000 that is still unaccounted for.
Saffold said during the sentencing that he would consider letting Kingsbury out of prison early, but only if she continues to pay back the surviving victims and locate the missing money.
Her sentencing was delayed when she was referred in January 2022 to the court’s psychiatric clinic.
Kingsbury admitted to taking nearly $600,000 from her clients’ trusts from 2012 to 2017 without explanation and transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars more between a total of 22 people’s accounts to cover up her financial malfeasance.
All told, investigators uncovered nearly $1.2 million in questionable transactions that Kingsbury made with money from the accounts she managed.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor J.D. May said during the hearing that, after a forensic examination of the accounts that Kingsbury pilfered, investigators still cannot account for a large portion of the money.
Nearly all of Kingsbury’s victims were severely mentally and developmentally disabled. Some of them could not read or write.
Several family members and attorneys who serve as guardians to Kingsbury’s clients told Saffold that the money in their trusts was meant to pay for medical expenses that Medicare and Medicaid would not cover, including trips to dentists and wheelchairs.
Michelle Owen brought her sister, who lost $29,000 to Kingsbury’s crimes, into the courtroom. Owen moved her sister’s wheelchair so she would face directly at Kingsbury.
“This is the person whose heart you broke,” Owen said.
The sister twice told Owen that she loved her as Owen spoke to the judge.
“I love you, too, baby,” Owen replied, as she ruffled her sister’s short gray hair.
Kingsbury stole more than $50,000 from Theresa Manary’s brother. Manary decided to speak directly to the former attorney.
“I don’t know how you sleep at night,” Manary said.
Michael Lear, who defended Kingsbury alongside Larry Zukerman, asked Saffold to spare his client prison time.
Lear pointed to a court psychiatrist’s diagnosing of Kingsbury with depression, stress disorder and caretaker fatigue at the time she began the thefts. He also said that Kingsbury was working to pay back the money, and she was one of the most remorseful clients he has ever had.
Kingsbury read from a written statement in which she apologized to her victims and their families.
“Those families deserved the highest level of care and service from me, and I failed miserably,” she said. “The words ‘I’m sorry’ hardly convey the depth of grief and the number of sleepless nights that I have suffered, but they are the only words I have to offer.”
After Saffold announced the prison sentence, Lear asked if the judge would consider allowing Kingsbury to go home and report to prison at a later date.
“No, I think she needs go out the side door today,” Saffold said.
Sheriff’s deputies handcuffed Kingsbury and escorted her out of the courtroom.
After the hearing, the families of the victims said they were grateful that Kingsbury received a prison sentence.
“Seeing the handcuffs getting slapped on was most satisfying,” Karen Farrell, a friend of Manary who attended the sentencing, said after the hearing.
Manary and Owen agreed.
“I thought if they don’t punish her, then other lawyers may see this and think, ‘I can do this and get a slap on the hand too,’” Manary said. “And that cannot happen.”