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Florida Bar Lawyers On the Job as Bank Robbers, Burglars and Stalkin’ Ex’s. More Talent Needed.

Here’s the State of the Florida Bar from their June 2021 list of disciplined Florida rogue lawyers and attorneys. Convicted Felons Wanted to [Re]Join the Fl. Bar today!

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Seekin’ Rogues and Outlaws for Legal Work in Florida. We Provide Rehab. Waivers. Can Work Remotely too, e.g. Nigerian Internet Cafes, Russia’s Dark Web, China’s Cyber Spying Section…

MAY 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 26, 2021

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 15 attorneys, disbarring five, revoking the licenses of two, suspending six, and reprimanding three. Two attorneys were ordered to pay restitution.

Gerald W. Adams, 1314 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 1059, Ft. Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately following an April 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984)

Adams continued to engage in the practice of law in contempt of the Supreme Court’s Order of Suspension by continuing to run his law firm.

Attempting to circumvent the rules, Adams transferred ownership of the firm to his office manager (a non-lawyer) without the office manager’s knowledge.

Adams continued to advertise his legal services online under the guise of document preparation offering to prepare legal documents/forms not approved by the Florida Supreme Court for use by non-lawyers, which constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

(Case No: SC20-1810)

Damien Aranguren, 725 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Suite 1, Ocala, suspended effective 30 days following a March 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009)

Aranguren entered pleas of no contest to three counts of grand theft (statutory theft), a third-degree felony, one count of trespass to structure, a second-degree misdemeanor, and one count of Trespass in Occupied Structure or Conveyance, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The court withheld adjudication as to all counts and sentenced Aranguren

to two years of conditional probation as to the felony counts and to credit for time served as to the misdemeanor counts.

(Case No: SC21-468)

Miami, Florida
Associate Attorney at Marrero, Trivedi, & Camizo
Legal Services

Education
Stetson University College of Law   2006 — 2008
Juris Doctor, Law

University of Central Florida   2002 — 2004
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science

Experience
Marrero, Trivedi, & Camizo   July 2012 – Present
LAW OFFICES OF DAMIEN ARANGUREN   October 2011 – June 2012
LAW OFFICES OF WALTER BENENATI   November 2010 – October 2011
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF FLORIDA   August 2008 – October 2010

Skills
Legal Research, Legal Writing, Legal Advice, Client Development, Client Engagement, Building Relationships, Cooperation, Negotiation, Spanish Fluency, Mediation, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Foreclosures, Trials, Pleadings, Legal Issues, Customer Engagement

Local attorney arrested, accused of burglarizing multiple vehicles and home

18 June 2020

Law officers on Wednesday arrested a local attorney and accused him of burglarizing several vehicles and a home until he eventually was held at gunpoint by one of the victims.

Damien Aranguren made his first appearance in front of County Judge Sarah Ritterhoff Williams on Thursday, a day after being taken into custody on several charges that include occupied burglary and grand theft auto.

Aranguren told the judge he plans to represent himself. He also told her he has a substance abuse problem, rents his home and has been living in Marion County for seven years.

The judge read the arrest reports from the Ocala Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and told the 39-year-old Ocala man she believed there was probable cause for his arrest.

Aranguren’s bail was set at $12,000. If he is released from the jail, the judge said, he should not possess or consume any illegal drugs or drugs not prescribed to him, and should not to return to the two southeast Ocala addresses where he allegedly committed the crimes.

About 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies were called to a residence to investigate a vehicle theft. When they arrived, a man told them he had been sitting in his garage, with the garage door open, when he saw his RV’s lights flash and heard the engine start.

The victim said the person behind the wheel apparently did not know how to operate the vehicle, which lunged several times.

The victim said he opened the door and a man, later identified as Aranguren, ran by him saying “get out of my way,” according to an arrest report.

The suspect tried to enter another vehicle in the driveway but was unsuccessful because the doors were locked, deputies were told. The would-be burglar banged on the window several times, ran to another vehicle and drove way.

Not long after, deputies were called to a second location, this time within the Ocala city limits, where they were told someone matching the description of the burglar was being detained at gunpoint by a citizen.

In that second case, the victim, who did not want to be identified, told a Star-Banner reporter that she was upstairs in her home when her sister-in-law told her that a man was inside the home.

The woman said she ran downstairs to find a man, later identified as Aranguren, typing on a laptop. She said the intruder told her more than once that it was his home. She said she told him it was not his home, and she grabbed a Keltec handgun.

The woman said she ordered the stranger to leave, which he did. The woman followed him outside and saw him entering two vehicles that were parked on the property. She said she told him to get out of the vehicles.

She continued to hold the man at gunpoint until law enforcement officials arrived.

Authorities identified Aranguren as the person responsible for both sets of break-ins. He was arrested and taken to a local hospital to be evaluated. Once cleared, he was transported to the jail.

Florida Bar records show Aranguren was admitted to the Bar in October 2009 and does not have a disciplinary history within the past decade. His legal work is in civil litigation, debtor and creditor, family, real estate and bankruptcy.

He is listed as a managing partner at the DA Firm, 725 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Suite 1, Ocala, and is considered a member in good standing, according to the Bar.

John Lance Armstrong, 515 N. Flagler Drive, Suite P300, West Palm Beach, public reprimand and payment of restitution of $5,000 with attendance at The Florida Bar’s Ethics School effective immediately following an April 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979)

Armstrong accepted a $5,000 fee and undertook representation of a client in a civil case and after filing the complaint took little or no significant action in the case.

The case was eventually dismissed for lack of prosecution.

(Case No: SC21-390)

Francine Blair Bogumil, 8950 Della Scala Cir., Orlando, suspended effective 30 days following a February 3 court order and following a March 31 court order.

A referee was ordered to recommend discipline. (Admitted to practice: 2006)

On January 26, Bogumil pled nolo contendre to three felonies and four misdemeanors. On March 25, Bogumil pled nolo contendre to three counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, third-degree felonies.

(Case Nos: SC21-150 and SC21-481)

Florida lawyer jailed after ramming SUV into ex-husband’s house, spitting on deputy

May 13, 2021

A Florida lawyer has been jailed after ramming her SUV into her ex-husband’s home, threatening to kill his girlfriend and spitting on a sheriff’s deputy, according to a report.

Francine Blair Bogumil, 40, drove her Land Rover into the back of a GMC Yukon parked in her ex-husband’s driveway on April 30, 2020, at around 3 a.m., the Miami Herald reported, citing court documents. She had left her 5-year-old and 11-year-old children alone at her house.

The force slammed the Yukon into her ex-husband’s garage door, pushing the door inward about 2 to 3 feet, according to the documents.

When Bogumil’s ex-husband came out of his home, he witnessed her throwing objects at his girlfriend’s BMW and breaking its windows, the report said. He told deputies he called 911 and attempted to get between Bogumil and his girlfriend, saying that he slapped Bogumil once after she slapped him twice.

Bogumil joined the Florida bar in 2006. She has since been suspended and a judge recommended her permanent disbarment.
(Orange County Corrections)

Bogumil reportedly yelled at the girlfriend,

“I will kill you, b—-!”

When an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy arrived and told her to stop shouting, Bogumil said,

“No. F— you!” and spat on him,

the report said.

Days after her arrest, Bogumil posted bond and contacted her ex-husband and his girlfriend via text messages, violating a restraining order, according to court documents.

The report alleged that Bogumil told the girlfriend that

“next is your mom and pops. I’d back the f— off if I were u. Just saying. You’ve been warned to stay away from my kids.”

She was also accused of making missing person fliers for her two kids with a picture of the ex-husband.

One of Bogumil’s text messages to the ex-husband read: “You can blame yourself because I’m JUST getting started with the ways I can ruin u…I WILL f— up your world up unless you surrender. I’m not backing down this time. S—- bout to get ugly.”

Bogumil was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of assault on a law enforcement officer, one count of domestic violence battery, two counts of violating a domestic violence restraining order, and two counts of criminal mischief.

She will serve 51 weeks in the Orange County Jail after pleading no contest to the charges.

Bogumil has since been suspended from the bar, with Judge Daryl Jay Isenhower recommending her permanent disbarment.

Chris R. Borgia, 4000 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Suite 470, Coral Gables, suspended for 18 months effective 30 days following an April 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002)

Borgia neglected four different clients in their representation for Social Security benefits.

Borgia failed to communicate with his clients, failed to appear at hearings or appeared unprepared, often failed to waive fees and withdraw from the Social Security Administration after being terminated by the clients, failed to promptly return unused costs deposits to clients, and failed to keep those funds for costs in his trust account.

(Case No: SC20-1295)

John Daneil Ellis, Jr., P.O. Box 1161, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990)

While Ellis was suspended from the practice of law, he agreed to provide legal assistance to an individual who lived out-of-state and needed an attorney.

Ellis agreed to prepare and file the necessary documents for the individual to probate his deceased mother’s estate. Although Ellis told this individual that he was not practicing law at the time, Ellis did not disclose that he was suspended from the practice of law due to misconduct and was not allowed to provide the individual with any legal services or advice.

Ellis prepared the documents, sent them to the individual for signature, and explained to the individual how and where to send the documents for filing.

(Case No: SC19-384)

Diego Handel, 149 South Ridgewood Ave., Suite 220, Daytona Beach, disbarred and held in contempt effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984)

Handel continued engaging in the practice of law after having been disbarred by order of the Supreme Court of Florida dated May 30, 2019.

(Case No: SC21-170)

SO MANY LIES, FLORIDA BAR

Aaron Patrick Honaker, 33 N.E. 4th St., Miami, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective April 19 following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008).

Honaker was charged with three counts of attempted bank robbery and two counts of bank robbery.

(Case No: SC21-116)

Attorney-turned-serial bank robber quit job, was homeless, confesses to crimes

Oct 23, 2020

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Coral Gables attorney turned bank robber carried a ball-peen hammer in his waistband and a composition style, green notebook with several different demand notes during a spree of hitting 5 banks in about 3 weeks, according to a criminal complaint released in federal court in the United States of America v. Aaron Patrick Honaker.

Honaker confessed to five bank robberies committed mostly in Coral Gables, except for one in Aventura, between the dates of Sept. 30 and Oct. 18.

During Honaker’s bond hearing on Friday, a federal judge deemed him a flight risk and, because of that, he remains in jail.

Prosecutors said the 41-year-old lawyer quit his job and told authorities he was broke and desperate.

Authorities said that Honaker was homeless and prior to that, he had traveled the world visiting several countries including Colombia where he met his fiancé. He had planned on returning to Colombia, he told them.

During the robberies, prosecutors said Honaker would enter a bank and give a note to a teller demanding cash. He was only able to get money in two incidents, which totaled about $1,800, according to investigators.

He later told investigators that he carried the ball-peen hammer with him during the robberies to escape any glass “mantraps” triggered by bank security. They also found a green notebook, which had instructions inside on how to commit a bank robbery and four, folded notes with demands to tellers.

Here are the banks, dates and details from criminal complaint.

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020: Citibank, Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables. At 3 p.m., a subject now identified as Honaker, entered the bank and sat in the lobby where he waited approximately 15 minutes before approaching a teller. He handed her a note that read: “Don’t touch the alarm or call police.” The note also asked for money. No money was taken after the teller told Honaker that they “did not have money, it is in the machine.” He left the bank, taking his note with him, according to the complaint.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020: Chase Bank, 20880 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura. Honaker entered the bank at 1:55 p.m. and approached a teller saying that he wanted to make a withdrawal but that he did not have his debit card with him. He handed the teller a note that he said would provide instructions on how to withdraw the money. The note said: “Empty all of your 50s and 100s and put it in an envelope.” He was able to get $1,050 in that heist.

Monday, Oct. 5, 2020: Wells Fargo Bank, 2555 Ponce De Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables. At approximately 3:53 p.m., Coral Gables Police received a 911 call for a bank robbery in progress at the Wells Fargo Bank. 10 minutes prior to the call, Honaker had stood in the customer line and then approached the teller. He used the same debit card m.o. telling the bank employee that he would give her a note of how he wanted his cash. “He handed her a note that said “Keep calm, and give me all the money in the drawer, I have a gun.” The teller said she could not read English and would have to get her manager. At that point, he left the bank on foot, according to the affidavit.

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020: Chase Bank, 355 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables. At 1:54 p.m., Honaker approached a teller and presented a demand note. He said to provide only “50s and 100s.” He was able to obtain $800.

Monday, Oct. 15, 2020: HSBC Bank, 2222 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables. Around 4:49 p.m., the subject entered bank, went to a teller station, then opened a composition-style notebook. He pulled a paper note and handed it to the teller. Without realizing what the note was, the teller asked the man to fill out a withdrawal slip first because she needed an account number. The subject, alleged to be Honaker, walked over to a service counter and wrote on the withdrawal slip, then went back to the teller. On the withdrawal slip, he wrote “read the note.” The teller told the man that the bank kept its cash in counting machines and she could not provide any money. The subject left.

Honaker was arrested on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in the Coral Gables area.

Honaker was arrested on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in the Coral Gables area.

According to Wake Forest University Law School’s registrar office, Honaker received his Juris Doctor degree there on Dec. 10, 2005. State records show he was admitted to the Florida Bar on Jan. 31, 2008, and is a member in good standing.

At the beginning of his career, Honaker was recruited by a top international law firm in Brickell and he worked there for about three years. Colleagues at boutique firms in Coral Gables described him as a “highly intelligent” and “brilliant” attorney who is “disciplined” and “sharp.”

Colleen E. Huott, 2385 N.W. Executive Center Dr., Suite 100, Boca Raton, was suspended effective 30 days following an April 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005)

That’s been upgraded to a disbarment on April 20.

In eight separate Bar matters, Huott did not show good cause for her failure to respond to multiple official Bar inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-96)

Stephen Michael Jones, 390 N. Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following an April 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015)

On November 9, 2020, Jones was emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court for misappropriating trust funds and for abandoning his law practice.

LIF COMMENT: $100,000+ IN FUNDS STOLEN: WHY’S HE NOT IN JAIL?

Jones subsequently failed to respond to the Bar’s Petition for Emergency Suspension and failed to appear for the sanction hearing.

A petition for emergency suspension is granted by the Florida Supreme Court when The Florida Bar presents clear and convincing evidence that a lawyer appears to be causing great public harm (see Rule 3-5.2(a)) and also constitutes a formal complaint so that the matter is fully investigated and final disciplinary action is ordered. (Case No: SC20-1593)

EXTRACT OF BAR REPORT RE ONE COMPLAINANT’S LOSS

“The bank records for respondent’s Bank of America trust account showed that the settlement check for Mr. Beardsley’s $100,000.00 settlement was deposited into the trust account on May 15, 2019. The endorsement on the back of the settlement check appeared to match respondent’s signature. Bar Exhibits 7, 10- 17.

The bar’s auditor determined that the entire $100,000.00 settlement was depleted over the next six months in a series of cash withdrawals, a transfer to another Bank of America account, a cashier’s check payable to Stephen M. Jones Law Firm PLLC, and a Venmo payment with the reference “Stephen Jones.””

Megan Olivia Kifer, 110 Front St., Suite 300, Jupiter, disbarred and payment of restitution effective immediately following an April 1 court order.

Kifer was emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court on October 28, 2020, with the imposed suspension effective within 30 days of that order. (Admitted to practice: 2016)

Kifer was hired to assist with paying expenses on behalf of a beneficiary of a Special Needs Trust and other tasks. Instead, Kifer misappropriated $8,194.53.

Kifer also misled the Bar during their investigation and was otherwise uncooperative.

Kifer had been previously emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court.

A petition for emergency suspension is granted by the Florida Supreme Court when The Florida Bar presents clear and convincing evidence that a lawyer appears to be causing great public harm (see Rule 3-5.2(a)) and also constitutes a formal complaint so that the matter is fully investigated and final disciplinary action is ordered. (Case No: SC20-1354)

Jeremiah J. Talbott, 900 E. Moreno St., Pensacola, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend Professionalism Workshop and Ethics School effective 30 days following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998)

Talbott was hired to represent a client in a federal case under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In an order denying Talbott’s motion for attorney fees from the opposing party, the federal court found that Talbott pursued the litigation in bad faith and engaged in frivolous filings during the proceedings to obtain higher attorney fees.

Talbott was charged with conducting frivolous litigation, failing to expedite litigation, filing exaggerated billing sheets with the court, as well as extensive and unnecessary discovery to increase attorney fees when there was no dispute of damages between the parties resulting in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Case No: SC20-1612)

Jeremiah “J.J.” Talbott

Principal Attorney

B.A. from University of West Florida (1994)
J.D. from Samford University, Cumberland School of Law (1997)

Practice Areas:

Personal Injury Workers’ Compensation Wage and Hour Criminal Defense Social Security Discrimination (ADA/Employment/FMLA) Domestic/Family Law Employment Law and General Civil Litigation

Jeremiah “JJ” Talbott is the founding partner of the Law Office of JJ Talbott, P.A. and concentrates his practice in the areas of personal injury, workers’ compensation, unpaid wages and overtime, wrongful termination, Social Security Disability, Family and Medical Leave Act, Divorce/Family law, probate, and general civil litigation.

JJ was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1972 and moved to Pensacola, Florida in 1974. He graduated from J.M. Tate High School in 1990 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of West Florida in 1994. In 1997, he received his Juris Doctorate from Samford University, Cumberland School of Law. While in law school, he was a member of the Trial Advocacy Board, member of the ABA National Trial Team, and nominated Best Advocate in the ABA National Trial Competition.

JJ is a member of both the Florida Bar (since 1998) and Alabama Bar (since 1997).

He is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida; United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida; United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida; United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama; and United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.

He is also a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (Florida Chapter), Worker’s Compensation Section of the Florida Bar, and a member of the Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association.

JJ has also served on numerous bar association committees including the Executive Counsel of the Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association (2007-2008), the Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee of the Florida Bar (chairman District A) (2004-2006), and the Community Service Committee of the Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association (Co-Chairman 2001-2007).

In 2012, JJ became a lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. The Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States.

Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

JJ lives in Pensacola with his wife and 2 children.

OPERATIVE COMPLAINT

The Florida Bar, complainant, files this Complaint against Jeremiah J. Talbott, respondent, pursuant to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and alleges:

1. Respondent is and was, at all times mentioned herein, a member of The Florida Bar admitted on October 5, 1998, and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida.

2. Respondent resided and practiced law in Escambia County, Florida, at all times material to this complaint.

3. The First Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee “A” found probable cause to file this complaint pursuant to R. Regulating Fla. Bar 3-7.4, and this complaint has been approved by the presiding member of that committee.

4. In February 2017, Christopher Moss (Mr. Moss) hired respondent to represent him against Pav’R Construction Inc. (PRC), and the owner Michael J. Breton (Mr. Breton), for withholding his final paycheck.

5. Mr. Moss had worked as a driver-operator for four months for PRC at $16.00 an hour which was more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

6. In January 2017, Mr. Moss was informed by PRC that he had broken numerous pieces of company equipment worth thousands of dollars and that he would need to reimburse the company for that damage. In response, Mr. Moss walked off the job and quit.

7. PRC, a small business with three to five employees, withheld his wages for 34.25 hours of work to compensate them for a small part of the broken equipment. This action by PRC technically meant that Mr. Moss was paid less than the minimum wage for one pay period, and PRC had violated a federal statute, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

8. The withheld wages totaled $248.31 and, even if it was determined that PRC had willfully violated the federal statute, Mr. Moss would be owed a total of $496.62 by PRC.

If Mr. Moss prevailed, the FSLA provided for reasonable attorney’s fees.

9. On June 14, 2017, respondent filed a federal lawsuit against Mr. Breton, PRC, and a second company owned by Mr. Breton, Pav’R Construction of Pensacola (PRCP) alleging that Mr. Breton and his two companies had violated the FLSA’s minimum wage provision.

10. On September 18, 2017, the complaint was served, but the complaint drawn up by respondent was unclear about the fact that the dispute concerned only one paycheck.

11. PRCP, which operated solely out of Mississippi, had never employed Mr. Moss and should never have been sued in the lawsuit.

12. Nevertheless, respondent kept PRCP in the federal lawsuit even after both Mr. Breton and Mr. Moss were deposed in March 2018.

Mr. Breton testified that Mr. Moss had never worked for PCRP and Mr. Moss testified he did not know why PRCP had been sued in the first place.

13. On April 30, 2018, defendant PRCP moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it had never employed Mr. Moss.

14. Respondent filed a nine-page response with 47 pages of exhibits to the summary judgment motion.

15. At the end of his response to the summary judgment motion, respondent admitted he did not disagree with PRCP’s position and concluded that the claims against PRCP should be dismissed.

16. The federal court granted PRCP’s motion for summary judgment and the company was dismissed from the case on June 20, 2018.

17. On January 19, 2018, after prior offers were rejected or ignored, Mr.

Breton and PRC served Mr. Moss with an Offer of Judgment under Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure via hand delivery agreeing to a judgment of $496.62 plus reasonable attorney fees and costs to be entered against the defendants.

18. Respondent failed to respond to the Offer of Judgment within 14 days, therefore, by operation of the rule it was “considered withdrawn.”

19. The federal lawsuit proceeded for several months with respondent conducting an enormous amount of discovery by way of interrogatories, requests for production, and about nine depositions.

20. On May 1, 2018, plaintiff filed a 31-page motion for summary judgment with 90 pages of exhibits, requesting final judgment in the amount of
$496.62 on the minimum wage claim against Mr. Breton and PRC, and indicating that there would be a request for attorney fees as the prevailing party.

21. Even though defendants, Mr. Breton and PRC, agreed to pay the $496.62 in their response, respondent filed a 10-page response repeating the same request as in his motion for summary judgment in the same amount of $496.62.

22. In an Order dated June 20, 2018, the federal court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and stipulated damages of $496.62.

23. In that same Order, however, the federal court specifically informed respondent that, as to a motion for attorney fees, since Mr. Breton and PRC had stipulated to a judgment against them for that exact amount of damages, the federal court would not entertain more than a nominal fee award, if anything at all.

24. Under Rule 68, Mr. Breton and PRC filed a motion for post-offer costs in the amount of $1,133.54 that was unopposed and granted by the court on November 2, 2018.

25. Respondent filed a motion requesting $28,351.00 in attorney’s fees incurred in recovering $496.62 for his client.

26. The defendants, Mr. Breton and PRC vigorously opposed the motion for attorney fees on the grounds that respondent had acted in “bad faith” and was engaged in “churning” fees.

27. In its Order dated November 2, 2018, the federal court concluded that respondent’s “unprofessional conduct shocks the conscience of the court, and he will be awarded no attorney fees. A ‘reasonable fee’ in this case is no fee.”

28. The federal court reasoned that respondent was not entitled to collect any attorney fees after the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment was ignored by respondent, nor was he entitled to any attorney fees that predated the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment because respondent “filed and pursued the litigation in bad faith,” and “was churning the file to prolong the litigation and run up his attorney fees.”

29. The federal court emphasized that less than two months after answering the complaint and one month after the parties planning meeting, on January 5, 2018, Mr. Breton and PRC agreed to pay the maximum damages of
$496.62 plus $2,000.00 in attorney fees, which would have benefitted not only Mr. Breton and PRC but also respondent’s client and the federal court, but not respondent’s ability to generate higher fees.

30. From January 5, 2018, forward, there was no dispute over the amount of damages owed to respondent’s client, only the amount of the attorney fees claimed by respondent to settle the lawsuit.

31. Respondent had filed a vague, pro forma complaint, a Motion for Default that was unnecessary if he had responded to Mr. Breton’s September 25, 2017, letter, and appeared at the parties’ planning meeting. Yet, respondent claimed that as of January 5, 2018, that he was entitled to $7,100.00 in attorney fees for these simple legal tasks.

32. Respondent exaggerated the amount of fees owed by claiming that he did numerous secretarial and paralegal tasks at his $350.00 per hour legal rate rather than delegating those tasks to his legal staff.

33. Respondent’s claims against PRCP were frivolous and nonmeritorious because, even though he knew, or should have known, that his client had no claim against this second corporation, he failed to dismiss PRCP as a party to the lawsuit.

34. Respondent’s failure to dismiss PRCP as a party required Mr.

Breton’s attorney to move and obtain summary judgment from the court on June 18, 2018, after a frivolous and nonmeritorious response to the motion for summary judgment by respondent.

35. Respondent filed extensive and frivolous discovery requests that were prejudicial to the opposing party running up fees on both sides when he knew, or should have known, that there was no dispute of damages owed to his client.

36. While respondent knew, or should have known, that there was no dispute of damages, nevertheless, he filed a frivolous 31-page motion for summary judgment on his client’s wage claim of $496.62 and a 9-page reply, even though Mr. Breton’s response stipulated to the amount of damages.

37. Respondent failed to expedite litigation when he continued to ignore the opposing party’s settlement offers, including the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment, and scheduled unnecessary and frivolous discovery to delay the proceedings and to increase his attorney fees.

38. Respondent misrepresented to Mr. Breton’s attorney that he wanted to settle the case, and, at the planning meeting on December 13, 2017, he advised Mr. Breton’s attorney that he had not communicated defendants’ offer of settlement to his client.

The time sheets submitted to the court to support his fee request, however, showed that he had drafted a letter to his client about the settlement offer on November 22, 2017.

The court noted that this representation to opposing counsel was not true.

39. Respondent was not candid with the court in his submissions.

He filed a Motion for Default alleging that Mr. Breton had submitted no answer to his complaint when Mr. Breton had sent respondent a letter dated September 25, 2017, explaining that Mr. Moss was paid $16.00 an hour which was more than the minimum wage.

40. Respondent filed billing sheets with the court to support his motion for attorney fees and costs which exaggerated the number of hours spent on the case.

41. Respondent alleged that he called Mr. Breton’s attorney at the beginning of February 2018, after the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment expired and advised that he did not accept the Rule 68 offer because he had “misplaced” it in the office mail. Mr. Breton’s attorney denied that he ever discussed the matter by telephone with respondent.

42. Respondent failed to respect the rights of Mr. Breton, PRCP and PRC by delaying the dismissal of PRCP from the litigation and by burdening Mr. Breton and PRC with unnecessary legal fees to defend himself and his corporations from suit.

43. Respondent’s actions throughout the proceedings were prejudicial to the administration of justice.

44. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

3-4.3(Misconduct and Minor Misconduct),

4-3.1(Meritorious Claims and Contentions),

4-3.2(Expedite Litigation),

4-3.3 (Candor Towards Tribunal),

4-3.4(Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel),

4-4.4(Respect for the Rights of Third Persons),

4-8.4(c)(Misrepresentation),

and 4-8.4(d)(Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice).

WHEREFORE, The Florida Bar respectfully requests that respondent be appropriately disciplined in accordance with the provisions of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar as amended.

Robert Louis Thirston II, 19211 Panama City Beach Pkwy., PMB 220, Panama City Beach, public reprimand effective immediately following an April 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008)

Thirston was held in contempt of the court’s orders dated September 6, 2019, and March 26, 2020, and failed to submit the sworn affidavits pursuant to Rule 3-5.1(h), which were ultimately filed with the court, albeit untimely. (Case No: SC20-865)

The Florida Bar suspends local attorney

Apr 30, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WMBB) — The Florida Bar announced on Thursday, local attorney Robert Louis Thirston II, of Panama City Beach, has been suspended for two years, retroactive to October 6, 2019.

The Florida Bar, an extension of the Supreme Court, suspended Thirston for failing to maintain trust accounting records and procedures, combining funds, and then not responding to the Bar or a subpoena to provide trust accounting records to the Florida Bar.

He was also ordered to attend ethics school by a court order on March 26.

The Bar requires attorneys suspended for 91 days or longer to prove rehabilitation in order to regain their law licenses.

The Florida Bar disciplined 23 other Florida attorneys, disbarring three, revoking the license of two, reprimanding three, and suspending 15. See the full list here.

Thirston attended the Appalachian School of Law and was admitted to practice in 2008. His practice areas included criminal, guardianship, international taxation, labor and employment and tax law.

News 13 has reached out to Thirston for comment on the matter, he has not yet responded.

Oanh Kim Tran, 16105 N. Florida Ave., Lutz, public reprimand and suspended effective immediately following an April 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2014)

Tran failed to respond to The Florida Bar’s requests regarding two pending Florida Bar complaints.

Tran admits she has not responded to the Bar complaints.

LIF UPDATE; She’s agreed to be revoked on the basis of ability to reapply in five years. Thievin’ lawyer Kim Tran should be incarcerated, not negotiating her Bar license via a former GOP Chairman.

(Case No: SC21-99)

PETITION FOR DISCIPLINARY REVOCATION WITH LEAVE TO APPLY FOR READMISSION

PETITIONER, Oanh Kim Tran, and submits this Petition for Disciplinary Revocation pursuant to Rule Regulating Fla. Bar 3- 7.12 and states:

1. Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily submits this petition with leave to reapply for readmission with full knowledge of its effect.

2. Petitioner is 33 years old and has been a member of The Florida Bar since September 23, 2014 and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida and the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

3. Petitioner has the following discipline history:

A. The Florida Bar v. Tran, SC21-169 [TFB File No.2020-10,048 (13F) (HES)]

The Petitioner was placed on emergency suspension pursuant to a Supreme Court of Florida order dated February 9, 2021, based upon an allegation of the misappropriation of client trust funds.

4. The following disciplinary charges are currently pending against the Petitioner:

A. The Florida Bar File No. 2020-10,048 (13F):

It is alleged that petitioner has misappropriated at least $87,773.85 of client funds and has altered bank statements to hide her defalcations.

These allegations led to the February 9, 2021 order of emergency suspension and this case is currently pending before a referee and designated as Supreme Court case number SC 21-169

B. The Florida Bar File No. 2021-10,230(13F):

This matter is currently pending before a grievance committee and concerns allegations of the misappropriation of client funds.

C. The Florida Bar File No. 2021-10,363 (13F) (OSC):

Pending before this Court, as Supreme Court of Florida case number SC21-99, is a contempt proceeding wherein the Bar seeks to compel the submission of written responses to pending grievances.

D. The Florida Bar File No 20121-424 (13F):

This matter is pending at staff level and concerns allegations of the misappropriation of client funds.

5. The Petitioner makes no admission as to the factual matters referenced above but agrees there is a factual predicate to support disciplinary sanction and that a disciplinary revocation is warranted herein.

6. Petitioner contends that granting this Petition will not adversely affect the public interest, the integrity of the courts, or the confidence of the public in the legal profession. Further, Petitioner contends that granting this Petition will not hinder the administration of justice.

LIF COMMENT: OF COURSE IT WILL – IS THERE A CRIMINAL REFERRAL IN THIS MATTER?

7. Petitioner agrees to reimburse the Client Security Fund (CSF) for any and all funds CSF has paid or may pay out for claims resulting from Petitioner’s misconduct.

8. Petitioner agrees to reimburse The Florida Bar for the reasonable costs incurred in her disciplinary cases.

9. Petitioner agrees to submit to a complete audit of any trust account(s) and any other account(s) in which Petitioner has placed client funds, if requested to do so by The Florida Bar.

10. Petitioner further agrees to submit a sworn financial affidavit to The Florida Bar attesting to Petitioner’s current personal and professional financial circumstances on a form to be provided by The Florida Bar within thirty (30) days, if requested.

11. Petitioner further agrees to maintain a current mailing address with The Florida Bar for a period of five (5) years after the disciplinary revocation becomes final. Further, Petitioner shall keep the bar advised as to the physical address of Petitioner’s home and/or business in the event Petitioner should utilize a post office box or other type of mail drop service during the five (5) year period after the disciplinary revocation becomes final.

12. Petitioner agrees to eliminate all indicia of petitioner’s status as an attorney on social media, telephone listings, stationery, checks, business cards office signs or any other indicia of his status as an attorney, whatsoever. Petitioner will no longer hold herself out as a licensed attorney.

13. Petitioner understands that the granting of this petition by the Supreme Court of Florida shall serve to dismiss all pending disciplinary cases.

WHEREFORE, The Petitioner, Oanh Kim Tran, respectfully requests that this Court enter an Order granting this request for the disciplinary revocation of his admission to The Florida Bar, with leave to reapply, on the grounds and for the reasons hereinabove set forth and for the entry of any other and further orders as this Court may deem proper under the circumstances.

Oanh Kim Tran

c/ o Kevin P. Tynan Esq.
Richardson & Tynan, P.L.C.
8142 N. University Dr.
Tamarac,
Florida
33321-1708
Florida Bar ID No.: 112235
kim@oanhlaw.com

Law Firm Bio

Kim Oanh Tran earned her law degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Law, with a concentration in International Law, after earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Legal Studies with a Business and Psychology double-minor. She is licensed to practice in the State of Florida in the Southern District and state courts.

Additionally, Ms. Tran has been an active member in the Vietnamese Communities at both the State and National levels for the past 12 years.

Her efforts began with the Vietnamese Community of Central Florida after winning her title as Miss Vietnam Florida 2006.

Most recently, the Vietnamese Community of South Florida has appointed her as General Counsel for the 2016-2018 term.

Ms. Tran is a Vietnamese American born and raised in Orlando, FL who speaks, reads, and writes in Vietnamese. She brings a unique perspective and exceptional skillset to her cases.

Prior to joining Berman & Berman, Ms. Tran was the Principal of her own private practice assisting local and international clients.

“My goals with forming this association is to better serve the legal interests of our community by providing legal services in all areas of law across the entire state of Florida”.

ALL THE FEDERAL CHIEF JUDGES JUDGIN' JUDGES

Richard Lamar Williams, 8451 S.W. 72nd Ter., Miami, disciplinary revocation without leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1972)

Williams was charged and pled guilty to the federal offense of conspiracy to transmit an interstate communication with intent to extort.

(Case No: SC21-137)

Florida Attorney Admits Role in $7.5 Million Bank Extortion Scheme

DEC 1, 2020

NEWARK, N.J. – A Florida attorney today admitted his role in a scheme to extort $7.5 million from a California bank, Attorney for the United States Rachael A. Honig announced.

Richard L. Williams, 73, of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with conspiracy to transmit an interstate communication with the intent to extort.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Beginning in May 2020, Williams and his client (Client-1) conspired to extort $7.5 million from a commercial bank headquartered in California (Bank-1).

Williams threatened Bank-1 that if it did not pay Client-1 $7.5 million, Client-1 would publicly disclose that Client-1 had accessed and obtained certain confidential data from the bank that did not belong to Client-1 and that Client-1 was not authorized to retain.

On June 18, 2020, Williams sent an email to an attorney for Bank-1 that attached a proposed agreement that Bank-1 had not requested.

The agreement – titled “Settlement, Assistance, and Confidentiality Agreement” – provided for Bank-1 to pay Client-1 approximately $7.5 million as a “settlement, assistance and confidentiality fee” within 48 hours of signing the agreement.

The payment was purportedly in exchange for Client-1 serving for one week as an “advisor” to Bank-1, a service that Bank-1 had not requested, and agreeing not to publicize confidential Bank-1 data that Client-1 had accessed and obtained.

The agreement was designed to conceal that Williams and Client-1 were extorting Bank-1.

From July through August 2020, Williams also engaged in a series of telephone conversations with an undercover law enforcement agent (UC-1) who Williams believed was a representative of Bank-1 located in New Jersey, with authority to transfer funds to Williams.

During a telephone call with UC-1 on July 24, 2020, Williams warned UC-1 that if Bank-1 did not pay Client-1 it should “fear” that Client-1 might reveal to various third parties that Client-1 had accessed and obtained the confidential data from Bank-1 or issue a press release disclosing that information.

Williams also implied that if Bank-1 refused to accede to his demands and pay Client-1, there may be violent consequences from third parties unrelated to Williams.

Williams warned UC-1 that “FBI agents were murdered a couple of blocks from where [he was] sitting,” and that if Williams were in Bank-1’s position, “what would scare the [expletive] out of [him] would be” the reaction of those third parties to the public revelation of Client-1’s access and retention of the data.

The charge to which Williams pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross grain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. Williams’s sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2021.

Attorney for the United States Honig credited the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott Lampert; Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri; and special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean M. Sherman and Bernard J. Cooney, Acting Chief of the Opioid Abuse Prevention & Enforcement, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 108,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam. Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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Florida

The Unwanted Dictator Gov Ron DeSantis Employs a Foreign Agent For His Presidential Campaign

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media.

Published

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DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent of foreign politician

Christina Pushaw’s disclosure of work for Mikheil Saakashvili came after contact from the Justice Department, her attorney said

JUN 8, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 9, 2022

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week registered as a foreign agent of a former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020.

The spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department, according to her attorney, Michael Sherwin.

She began her work in 2018 as a volunteer in the post-Soviet country, Sherwin said, and was ultimately paid $25,000 over the course of two years.

She received her first payment, of $10,000 in October 2018, in cash, according to her filing.

She stayed for free for six weeks in an apartment owned by a Saakashvili associate in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

“Her efforts included writing op-eds, reaching out to supporters and officials, and advocating on his behalf in Georgia and in the United States,”

Sherwin said.

“The work ended in 2020. Ms. Pushaw was notified recently by the DOJ that her work on behalf of Mr. Saakashvilli likely required FARA registration. Ms. Pushaw filed for the registration retroactively as soon as she was made aware.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The episode reflects standard enforcement practices under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, an expert on the 1938 law at D.C.-based Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein and Birkenstock.

A letter of inquiry may prompt a voluntary registration, he said, to “short-circuit a more formal determination of a failure to comply.”

Enforcement can take place years after the activity in question if authorities receive a complaint or simply act on a public news item, he said. Though the methods are standard, Rosenstein added, there is an increased willingness to use them.

Last month, the Justice Department sued Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, seeking to compel him to register as an agent of China.

Days before that, a Washington lobbying firm said a probe into its work for Burisma Holdings concluded when it submitted a new filing retroactively detailing its activities on behalf of the Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, which once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.

Pushaw, a year into her tenure as DeSantis’s press secretary, has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media. Twitter briefly locked her account last year after the Associated Press said the criticism she directed at a reporter caused him to receive death threats.

She has written openly on social media of her work for Saakashvili, who was arrested last year when he returned to Georgia after eight years in exile.

Associated with factions critical of the Kremlin, Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013 and entered Ukrainian politics after that country removed a pro-Russian president in 2014.

A court in Georgia, now controlled by Saakashvili’s political opponents, convicted him in absentia in 2018. He faced arrest three years later when he made a theatrical return to his country, posting a copy of his plane ticket on social media.

According to Pushaw’s LinkedIn profile, she joined the governor’s office in May 2021 after her time as director of a nonprofit “focused on empowering youth through education and professional development opportunities” based in Tbilisi.

She also lists experience as a campaign strategist for a Georgian opposition party and, on other social media, has identified that party as the United National Movement, which Saakashvili once chaired.

In her filing with the Justice Department, dated June 6, she wrote that her activities “included perception management, public relations, and preparation and dissemination of informational materials to an international audience, including U.S. persons and entities.”

Pushaw’s work for Saakashvili involved going toe-to-toe in 2018 with W. Samuel Patten, a political consultant who had just pleaded guilty to not registering as an agent of a Ukrainian political party.

As part of his plea deal, Patten agreed to assist special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 election.

In communication reproduced at the time by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Pushaw claims to have contacted the Justice Department about messages allegedly sent by Patten to a former aide to Saakashvili before the Georgian exile’s appearance on CNN.

In the appearance, which included discussion of Patten’s case, Saakashvili read aloud the messages said to have come from Patten, including a warning to “call off your trolls now, or I’ll start releasing things about Misha he’d prefer I didn’t.”

“Today, I contacted the DOJ to report Sam’s threat and send over the screenshots,”

Pushaw wrote to Turley, who appeared on CNN after Saakashvili.

“I believe Sam knew [Saakashvili] would talk about the case on CNN yesterday, since I announced it on Facebook a few hours beforehand. I think Sam sent the threat right before the interview to coerce him into silence.”

Patten called the suggestion that he was bullying Saakashvili or his associates “absurd, backwards and disproven.”

Turley said he reproduced Pushaw’s message with her permission.

Sherwin, her attorney, did not respond to a question about the 2018 episode.

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Florida

Disgraced and Disbarred: Why Are Former Judges and Lawyers Working as Mediators in Our Courts?

LIF questions the standards applied for allowing former disgraced and disbarred lawyers and judges to become mediators in Florida Courts.

Published

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Ex Con and Disgraced Lawyer Steven Lippman is Working as a Mediator in Florida Courts

We detail Lippman’s criminal past and current employment in our Allan Campbell Pen Name Series here.

Greedy Former Judge and Lawyer Laura Watson is Working as a Mediator in Florida Courts and disavowing She was Ever a Judge On Her Linkedin Profile

Laura Watson was a Judge for a short time, most of it under investigation by the JCQ. She was officially on the bench from January 2013 until around June 2015. This is not shown on her Linkedin resume.

Laura Marie Watson was a Judge of the Seventeenth Circuit Court in Broward County, Florida.

She was elected in 2012 and began serving on the court in January of 2013.

She was removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court in June 2015

Reason: Finchin’ $2.5M of a $3M group settlement for herself and her former hubby, Darin Lentner.

No criminal charges were filed against either Watson or Lentner.

The Conflicting Mediator Resume for Laura Watson

LIF Commentary: If you’re lyin’ and hidin’ on your resume, you cannot be trusted, especially as a mediator in Florida courts.

Former Broward County judge disbarred for her conduct as attorney

Laura Watson removed from office in 2015

May 1, 2017

A former Broward County judge has been disbarred for her conduct before she wore a robe.

Laura Watson is no longer entitled to practice law in the state of Florida, the Florida Bar announced Friday.

Watson was removed from office by the Florida Supreme Court in June 2015 because of her actions as an attorney before she was elected judge.

The Florida Bar said Watson violated numerous bar rules, including failing to fully inform clients, not giving clients sufficient information to make decisions and failing to provide closing statements and place disputed funds in escrow.

A 16-page decision by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission said Watson “sold out her clients, her co-counsel and ultimately herself” while she was an attorney involved in insurance litigation involving Progressive, Gold Coast Orthopedics and her personal injury protection clients.

Watson was accused of secretly negotiating a settlement with Progressive that paid her firm $3 million, improperly cutting out fellow lawyers and shortchanging her clients, who received just $361,000.

The other attorneys sued Watson and won.

Watson was elected to the Broward County circuit court in 2012 and took office in 2013. She was first admitted to the Florida Bar in 1985.

Court Rules Ousted Broward Judge Can’t Sue JQC Members, Bar Prosecutors

July 31, 2017

Former Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson lost her case against members of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and Florida Bar lawyers whose work led to her disbarment.

Watson alleged the attorneys violated her constitutional rights and conspired against her in judicial and attorney disciplinary proceedings. She was removed from the bench in 2015 for unethical work during her private-practice days, and the Florida Bar permanently revoked her license earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke dismissed Watson’s lawsuit Friday, ruling JQC members and Florida Bar prosecutors are immune to lawsuits over work they do in those roles, just as judges and criminal prosecutors are.

Watson “does nothing to show that the JQC investigative panel members’ functions were not similar to the role of prosecutors, or that the defendants stepped outside their roles such that absolute immunity would not attach to that action,” Cooke wrote.

The former judge’s allegations that her rights were violated were not sufficient to pierce the veil of that immunity, Cooke added.

The discipline against Watson stemmed from her involvement in a secret insurance litigation settlement that didn’t designate any money for several other attorneys retained on the case.

Her firm, Watson & Lentner, was one of the recipients of a $14.5 million settlement from Progressive Insurance Co. on behalf of health care providers.

Watson & Lentner paid clients $361,000 and kept more than $2.5 million for itself, leaving out other attorneys who later sued Watson, her firm and anyone else who received attorney fees.

A judge then reallocated $3 million for the other attorneys at Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain in Miami and two solo practitioners.

Stewart Tilghman attorney Larry Stewart filed complaints with the JQC and the Florida Bar, and the saga ended in disbarment for Watson, her ex-husband and former law partner Darin Lentner, and father-and-son attorneys Charles and Harley Kane.

In her lawsuit against the JQC members and bar prosecutors, Watson claimed Stewart exercised undue influence over the proceedings against her. His law partner was friends with a JQC lawyer, who then withheld emails from Watson that could have helped her defense, she alleged in the 99-page complaint that included 1,800 pages of appendices.

But Cooke ruled the emails are protected by prosecutorial immunity and did not appear to include exculpatory evidence.

“The emails certainly show that Mr. Stewart was immensely interested in [Watson]’s case before the JQC and constantly communicated with members of the JQC and the Florida Bar,” Cooke wrote. “However, the emails contain nothing about the underlying charges for which [Watson] was removed from judicial office being false.”

Tampa attorney Lanse Scriven, a partner at Trenam who is on the Florida Bar board of governors, represented the 19 defendants from both the JQC and the bar. He declined to comment on Cooke’s order. His Trenam colleague Anne Connelly Leonard also represented the JQC defendants, and Michael Moody of Greenberg Traurig in Tallahassee defended the Florida Bar lawyers.

Watson, who represented herself, did not respond to a request for comment.

The order closes a three-year battle that included a failed attempt by Watson to get her case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Federal Judges

Lawyer Calvin Curtis Stole Over $13M Sentenced to 8 Years in Jail. He Wants a Favor from The Florida Bar.

Attorney Calvin Carl Curtis submitted a request for disciplinary revocation, with the caveat he can reapply in 5 years.

Published

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LIF Commentary

“It is unbelievable and painful that Mr. Curtis continues to spend potential restitution to support a lavish lifestyle for his girlfriend in Orlando while his disabled victims are unable to pay rent on their mobile homes or afford basic necessities.

Apparently stealing more than $12,700,000 [corrected sum by LIF] isn’t shameful enough,”

said Kelly White, an attorney who is representing several of Curtis’ victims.

On May 24, Despicable Utah Attorney Calvin Carl Curtis, who is also a member of the Florida Bar, submitted a request for disciplinary revocation, with the caveat he can reapply in 5 years.

Salt Lake City Estate Planning Attorney Sentenced to 97 Months in Prison and Ordered to Pay over $12.7 Million Dollars to 26 Victims

MAY 6, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

FBI agents went to Curtis’ office late last month and found a $2,000 check for legal work he provided, according to the report.

Prosecutors also asked a judge to clarify that Curtis’ restriction on performing legal work is already in effect and he should cease any work as a lawyer.

Prosecutors asked a judge to require Curtis to get a full-time job immediately.”

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney Calvin Curtis, 61, of Salt Lake City, was sentenced to serve 97 months in federal prison by a U.S. District Court Judge today. Curtis was ordered to pay $12,779,496 in restitution to the 26 victims of his crimes and sentenced to an additional three years of supervised release upon his release from federal prison.

Curtis previously pleaded guilty in November of 2021, to embezzling millions of dollars from clients of his estate planning law firm based in Salt Lake City, known as Calvin Curtis Attorney at Law PLLC, and Curtiselderlaw.com.

By the time of his sentencing, it had been discovered that Curtis had embezzled over $12 million dollars from his former clients who prosecutors say are elderly, incapacitated, or disabled individuals.

In the plea agreement, Curtis admitted that he is an attorney who specialized in special needs trusts and that beginning in January 2008, he began a fraudulent scheme to defraud a client known as “G.M.” out of money. Curtis admitted that due to his role, he had access to millions of dollars in two different trust accounts belonging to victim G.M., and that he transferred at least $9,500,000 intended for the care of G.M. into his own accounts, and then used this money for his own personal use. Curtis admitted that he also created fake financial statements and submitted these to the court ordered conservator of G.M. to conceal the fraud.

In pleading guilty to the wire fraud charge, Curtis admitted that on January 25, 2018, that he caused a wire communication from a Schwab Investment Account to his own Wells Fargo account, resulting in a transfer of $1,485,000.

Curtis admitted that he used the money for his own personal benefit to make mortgage payments on his combined home and office located on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah; to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel; to purchase tickets to basketball and football games; to give lavish gifts to others; and to support the operations of his law firm.

In pleading guilty to the money laundering count, Curtis admitted that he fraudulently caused $135,000 to be transferred online from G.M. to his own Wells Fargo account, and that he used these funds to wire $95,000 to The Fechtel Company for the remodel of his home in Tampa, Florida.

Curtis admitted that he knew these transactions were illegal at the time they occurred, and that the money was not used for the benefit of G.M.

Assistant United States Attorneys prosecuted the cases against Curtis and Special Agents from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation.

Topic(s):
Financial Fraud
Component(s):
USAO – Utah

United States v. Curtis

(2:21-cr-00464)

District Court, D. Utah

NOV 8, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

Curtis’ South Temple mansion has been sold to House of Hope, which provides services to women with substance abuse disorders.

1135 E South Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84102 (Office Property)

JUDGMENT as to Calvin Curtis (1), Count(s) 1, BOP 97 months.

36 months probation with standard and special conditions as stated on the record.

No fine.

SPA $200.

Restitution of $12,779,496.51 as stated on the record.

Forfeiture of real property located at 1135 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah;

a money judgment equal to the value of any property, real or personal, constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to the scheme to defraud and not available for forfeiture as a result of any act or omission of the defendant(s) for one or more of the reasons listed in 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

substitute property as allowed by 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) and 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

funds in the amount of $384,919.04 seized from Wells Fargo Bank account ending in 3424;

jewelry purchased at Summit Diamond for $73,935.;

Count(s) 2, BOP 97 months.

36 months probation with standard and special conditions as stated on the record.

No fine. SPA $200.

Restitution of $12,779,496.51 as stated on the record.

Forfeiture of real property located at 1135 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah;

a money judgment equal to the value of any property, real or personal, constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to the scheme to defraud and not available for forfeiture as a result of any act or omission of the defendant(s) for one or more of the reasons listed in 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

substitute property as allowed by 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) and 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

funds in the amount of $384,919.04 seized from Wells Fargo Bank account ending in 3424;

jewelry purchased at Summit Diamond for $73,935.

Defendant Termed.

Case Closed.

Signed by Judge David Barlow on 05/06/2022.(jl)

(Entered: 05/09/2022)

1305 Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

Sold for $1.75M in April 2021

Sold to Doctor Rose (Where'd the Dosh Go?)

Judge rejects plea deal for Utah attorney charged with embezzling millions

APR 19, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

Judge David Barlow and Calvin Curtis

A prominent Salt Lake City attorney thought he would be spending just over six years in prison after embezzling more than $12 million from dozens of clients over a span of 13 years.

Instead, a federal judge refused to accept the 73-month plea deal — indicating the punishment was not harsh enough and that he doesn’t believe Calvin Curtis is fully remorseful.

Curtis was a special needs trust attorney, representing some of the most vulnerable clients in Utah — many of whom suffer from severe mental or physical disabilities.

Prior to the ruling, Curtis cried and apologized to the victims.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Kris Sanford, who has been paralyzed since 2009, addressed Curtis directly during the hearing.

“Your moral compass is not there,”

Sanford said.

“It’s disgusting… I guess on the advice of my attorney, I’m going to stop there.”

Sanford, who said he “only” lost about $40,000, asked the judge to ignore the recommended 73-month sentence that prosecutors reached with Curtis.

Aaron Hall, who is legally blind, also asked the judge to ignore the plea deal. He said he lost about half a million dollars.

“This brought me almost to suicide,”

Hall said.

“He gave fraudulent accounts to family members who were questioning me and drove me to the point where I was questioning my own sanity and whether I did something wrong… It’s really embarrassing being a father not being able to take care of your children. Your children shouldn’t have to pay all your bills.”

Sherry McConkey was in court representing her mother-in-law. Glenn McConkey has severe Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In that case, Curtis admitted he stole approximately $12 million.

“I just kept on staring at him going, ‘Wow, how can you be so evil?’”

Sherry McConkey said.

“I don’t believe his apology, so therefore I don’t accept it.”

While addressing the court, Curtis agreed that his actions were “evil.”

He addressed some of the victims by name, referring to them as “dear friends” that he took advantage of.

“Unfortunately, most of everything they’ve said is true, and I’m very sorry about that,”

Curtis said.

“I accept responsibility. It’s my fault. I pray for them. I hope they pray for me.”

“If that man never speaks my name again, it would be too soon,”

Hall responded.

Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after learning the judge found the plea deal “unreasonable.”

Some victims, like Matt Hess, said they were not sure how to feel, worried the case could now drag on or go to trial. Hess’ disabled daughter is one of the victims.

A prominent Salt Lake City attorney thought he would be spending just over six years in prison after embezzling more than $12 million from dozens of clients over a span of 13 years.

Instead, a federal judge refused to accept the 73-month plea deal — indicating the punishment was not harsh enough and that he doesn’t believe Calvin Curtis is fully remorseful.

Curtis was a special needs trust attorney, representing some of the most vulnerable clients in Utah — many of whom suffer from severe mental or physical disabilities.

Prior to the ruling, Curtis cried and apologized to the victims. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Kris Sanford, who has been paralyzed since 2009, addressed Curtis directly during the hearing.

“Your moral compass is not there,” Sanford said. “It’s disgusting… I guess on the advice of my attorney, I’m going to stop there.”

Sanford, who said he “only” lost about $40,000, asked the judge to ignore the recommended 73-month sentence that prosecutors reached with Curtis.

Aaron Hall, who is legally blind, also asked the judge to ignore the plea deal. He said he lost about half a million dollars.

“This brought me almost to suicide,” Hall said. “He gave fraudulent accounts to family members who were questioning me and drove me to the point where I was questioning my own sanity and whether I did something wrong… It’s really embarrassing being a father not being able to take care of your children. Your children shouldn’t have to pay all your bills.”

Sherry McConkey was in court representing her mother-in-law. Glenn McConkey has severe Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In that case, Curtis admitted he stole approximately $12 million.

“I just kept on staring at him going, ‘Wow, how can you be so evil?’” Sherry McConkey said. “I don’t believe his apology, so therefore I don’t accept it.”

While addressing the court, Curtis agreed that his actions were “evil.” He addressed some of the victims by name, referring to them as “dear friends” that he took advantage of.

“Unfortunately, most of everything they’ve said is true, and I’m very sorry about that,” Curtis said. “I accept responsibility. It’s my fault. I pray for them. I hope they pray for me.”

“If that man never speaks my name again, it would be too soon,” Hall responded.

Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after learning the judge found the plea deal “unreasonable.”

Some victims, like Matt Hess, said they were not sure how to feel, worried the case could now drag on or go to trial. Hess’ disabled daughter is one of the victims.

“It’s good and bad I guess,” Hess said. “It’s good in the sense that we might get something a little more out of this. He might get a few more years. I don’t think we’re going to find any more money.”

Judge David Barlow said he believed a more appropriate sentence would be somewhere between 8-10 years in prison, or 97 to 121 months.

He referred to Curtis’ actions as “unspeakable,” “calculated,” and “cold blooded.”

“It’s just about as terrible as a thing can be,” Barlow said. “So heinous and so devastating… Im not convinced he’s taken full accountability.”

Barlow gave credit to Curtis for cooperating with the investigation and forfeiting approximately $1.4 million. He said that he hopes both sides come together to reach a more reasonable plea deal in order to avoid trial.

The likelihood of the remaining $11 million being returned is “failingly small” if not “impossible.”

Utah attorney pleads guilty to embezzling $9.5M from his clients

Prosecutors had said Calvin Curtis used the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle.”

NOV 18, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney Calvin Curtis, 61, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty in federal court today to two counts involving wire fraud and money laundering for his role in embezzling at least $9.5 million dollars from clients of his estate planning law firm based in Salt Lake City, known as Calvin Curtis Attorney at Law PLLC, and Curtiselderlaw.com.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to recommend a sentence of 73 months in federal prison during Curtis’s sentencing which is scheduled to occur on March 15, 2022.

In the plea agreement, Curtis admitted that he is an attorney who specializes in special needs trusts and that beginning in January 2008, he began a fraudulent scheme to defraud a client known as “G.M.” out of money.

Curtis admitted that due to his role, he had access to millions of dollars in two different trust accounts belonging to victim G.M. and that he transferred at least $9,500,000 intended for the care of G.M. into his own accounts and then used this money for his own personal use.

Curtis admitted that he also created fake financial statements and submitted these to the court ordered conservator of G.M. to conceal the fraud.

In pleading guilty to the wire fraud charge, Curtis admitted that on January 25, 2018, that he caused a wire communication from a Schwab Investment Account to his own Wells Fargo account, resulting in a transfer of $1,485,000.

Curtis admitted that he used the money for his own personal benefit to make mortgage payments on his combined home and office located on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah; to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel; to purchase tickets to basketball and football games; to give lavish gifts to others; and to support the operations of his law firm.

In pleading guilty to the money laundering count, Curtis admitted that he fraudulently caused $135,000 to be transferred online from G.M. to his own Wells Fargo account, and that he used these funds to wire $95,000 to The Fechtel Company for the remodel of his home in Tampa, Florida.

Curtis admitted that he knew these transactions were illegal at the time they occurred, and that the money was not used for the benefit of G.M

At this time, it is alleged that Curtis embezzled funds from at least 22 additional trusts in amounts more than $9,500,000.

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of this crime is encouraged to call the FBI at (801) 579-1400 to file a report.

“Defrauding vulnerable and elderly adults is a reprehensible and greedy act that is deserving of federal prison time,” said Acting United States Attorney Andrea T. Martinez. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting and holding those accountable who defraud elderly and vulnerable clients. Our concern is with the victims of these crimes and their ability to obtain basic needs moving forward.”

“Calvin Curtis’ greed had devastating consequences for his clients, who placed their trust and money in his hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Sadly, financial fraud cases like this are not limited to a few victims. We hope this case sends a strong message that the FBI will do what it takes to make sure such crimes don’t go unpunished.”

“The IRS is proud to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to combat the seemingly ever present fraud in Utah,”¬ stated IRS Phoenix Field Office Special Agent in Charge Darren Lian. “This plea brings the United States one step closer to justice for the many victims who have serious losses in this unfortunate case.”

Assistant United States Attorneys are prosecuting the cases against Curtis and Special Agents from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigations are conducting the investigation.

Topic(s):
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Component(s):
USAO – Utah

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