Fraud is trouble; Theft from Child; Research Issues; Epic Trust Fund Breach

FRAUD LEADS TO TROUBLE
Indianapolis lawyer Paul J. Page has agreed to plead guilty for his scheme to defraud a bank. Hard to tell whether this is a business deal gone bad (which even by a lawyer is not a big concern of this blog) or a bad thing done in his role as a lawyer.

More interesting is all that is written about his friend and colleague, former Indy Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.  Too early to tell if Page’s fraud leads to Brizzi trouble, but I smell smoke in the air.

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ELKHART LAWYER STEALS FROM CHILD’S FUND

Juan Garcia Jr., an Elkhart In. lawyer has pleaded guilty to stealing the funds of a child, whose funds from a personal injury settlement were placed in trust with Garcia by the child’s guardian. When the guardian noticed some discrepancies, she met with Garcia who tried to bribe her to remain silent. The bribe money also came from the child’s funds. The guardian took the bribe money to the police, and the charges followed.

One interesting aspect is to read the subscribers’ comments to the news story on this case from the Elkhart Truth.

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UPDATE YOUR RESEARCH

The lesson from the Thul case out of ND IL federal court is to update your research.  Biglaw firm Skadden Arps lawyers filed Motion to Dismiss (as usual), but did not cite the recent (2012) 7th Cir. case on the basis for their motion. Trial judge went ballistic.  Their action he said “likely amounted to conduct sanctionable under FRCP 11(b)(2) and 28 USC 1927.”  The judge has set a hearing for Jan 17, but by today, Jan. 10,  all three lawyers from Skadden shall “show cause in writing … why they should not be sanctioned” in any of four ways set out in the opinion, and must “appear in person” for what sounds like a slap down by the judge.  Ouch.

Just a reminder that the best daily blog for keeping up with legal issues in Indiana is still the Indiana Law Blog, written by Marcia Oddi.  I owe her my thanks for many of the cases I can give you a bit different look at.

I check ILB regularly, and so should you.

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BUYING TRUST ACCOUNT TROUBLES?
A trust account is a serious matter. Written about before here, it is not a personal checking account, not a place for your funds, not a line of credit for your office and not something to be taken lightly. You never want the Supreme Court to call your handling of your trust account an “ethical failure of epic proportions” as the Wisconsin court did for Joe Weigel.

The now former lawyer found out the hard way. It started with a seemingly innocent act. Weigel worked for a lawyer in Wisconsin, and eventually bought his practice (permitted under IN RPC 1.17) in 1999. While working there he “knew of a deficit in the trust account” but did not research that until after he and his new partners bought Alvin Eisenberg out.  He said he thought the problem was only $200-250 thousand. In reality, the deficit was near a million dollars. But he had bought the practice anyway.

He did not report Eisenberg to the WI Disciplinary Commission at the time that he worked there or when he bought the practice. When asked, Weigel responded, “I thought of it but just made a moral decision not to do that.”

Not the kind of “moral decisions” that lawyers should make. For 13 years Weigel juggled the books, borrowing from one client to pay another, or holding the funds due a third-party to pay someone in a different case. Finally his luck ran out, he got caught and now is out of the profession.

If you have a trust account problem, fix it immediately. This is a place where self-reporting with counsel at your side should be considered.

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