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Florida Lawyer Brian O’Connell Borrowed Half a Million Plus and then Lied On His Tax Return

What else is being lied about? And will the Catholic Charitable Donations need a Few Hail Mary’s?

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COMPLAINT OF THE FLORIDA BAR

BRIAN MCKENNA O’CONNELL

MAY 24, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

The Florida Bar, complainant, files this Complaint against Brian McKenna O’Connell, respondent, pursuant to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and alleges:

1. The respondent is and was at all times mentioned herein a member of The Florida Bar admitted on November 10, 1980 and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida.

2. The respondent resided in and practiced law in Palm Beach County, Florida, at all times material.

3. The respondent was Board Certified by the Florida Bar from August 1, 1990 until July 31, 2020 in Wills, Trusts and Estates.

4. The respondent was an attorney with the law firm of Ciklin Lubitz, at all times material.

5. The Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee “I” found probable cause to file this complaint pursuant to Rule 3-7.4, of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and this complaint has been approved by the presiding member of that committee.

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COUNT I – THE MISAPPROPRIATIONS

6. The respondent represented Nancy C. Brown, hereinafter referred to as “Brown.”

7. The respondent prepared the Nancy C. Brown Amended and Restated Revocable Trust, hereinafter referred to as “The Trust.”

8. Brown, as settlor, executed The Trust on February 6, 2009.

9. The respondent, together with Wachovia Bank were named as the trustees of The Trust.

10. Subsequent to the execution of The Trust, Wachovia Bank resigned as the corporate trustee leaving respondent as the sole trustee, as reflected in the First Amendment to The Trust, dated December 8, 2011.

(The Trust and First Amendment to The Trust are attached hereto and incorporated herein as The Florida Bar’s Exhibit 1.)

11. The First Amendment to The Trust required respondent, as the sole trustee, to distribute to the following beneficiaries, as specific devises:

The sum of ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED ($1,500) DOLLARS shall be distributed to JOHN OLSON, if he survives Settlor.

The sum of FIVE THOUSAND ($5,000) DOLLARS shall be distributed to SCHENELL M. FINN, if he survives Settlor.

12. The First Amendment to The Trust also required respondent, as the sole trustee, to distribute all the rest, residue and remainder of the residuary Trust Estate as follows:

[T]o such one or more charitable organizations qualified under Section 501(3)(c)(sic) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, as the Trustee, in the Trustee’s sole discretion, shall determine”.

(See The Florida Bar’s Exhibit 1, page 2 of the First Amendment.)

13. Brown died on January 28, 2014.

14. The respondent administered Brown’s estate and The Trust.

15. On or about March 6, 2014, respondent represented The Trust in the sale of Brown’s home, with the sales proceeds of $538,342.73, disbursed at closing to The Trust.

16. On or about March 7, 2014, respondent caused the proceeds of $538,342.73 to be deposited into the trust account maintained at IberiaBank, Account ending in 9513, which respondent opened on or about the date of the sale of Brown’s residence.

17. The respondent opened the IberiaBank account ending in 9513, on or about March 7, 2014, despite the existing account at Wachovia Bank, entitled “Nancy C Brown Rev Trust.”

18. The respondent’s personal bank account was also maintained at IberiaBank.

19. Ciklin Lubitz did their banking primarily at Wachovia Bank and Citibank, at all times material.

20. The respondent was the sole signatory on the IberiaBank Account ending in 9513 for The Trust.

21. A federal tax lien was filed in June of 2012 in the combined amount of $1,006,240.00 against respondent’s former residence located at 132 Cortez Road in West Palm Beach, Florida.

That combined lien was finally paid and satisfied in 2021.

22. Multiple tax liens were also levied on properties owned by the respondent in Berrien County, Michigan by March of 2014.

23. From March 7, 2014 through June 4, 2014, in thirteen separate transactions, respondent misappropriated a total of $506,455.30 from Brown’s trust proceeds held in IberiaBank Account ending in 9513.

24. The following dates and amounts of the respondent’s misappropriations are listed below:

03/07/2014 $42,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

03/27/2014 $40,575.00 (withdrawal for “Berrien County Treasurer”)

03/30/2014 $36,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

04/02/2014 $19,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell

04/14/2014 $250,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

05/02/2014 $40,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

05/09/2014 $3,188.50 (withdrawal for “Zazz Events”)

05/09/2014 $10,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

05/19/2014 $40,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

05/30/2014 $15,000.00 (payable to Brian O’Connell)

06/02/2014 $2,500.00 (payable to Flagler Bank)

06/02/2014 $6,691.80 (payable to Flagler Bank)

06/04/2014 $1,500.00 (phone/in-person transfer)

Total $506,455.30

25. All of the thirteen separate withdrawals made by the respondent from the IberiaBank Trust Account ending in 9513 were for the personal benefit of the respondent and not for the interests of the beneficiaries.

26. Not a single one of the thirteen separate withdrawals from The Trust account was for the interests of the beneficiaries.

27. On or about June 10, 2014, a paralegal with the Ciklin Lubitz Firm questioned the withdrawals from The Trust’s Account ending in 9513 with an email to the respondent with the subject line

“The Brown Trust Account is down to $30,000”

which stated:

“What is going on with all of these checks and withdrawals?”

28. On or about June 14, 2014, the managing partner of the Ciklin Lubitz Firm and others met with the respondent and confronted him concerning the withdrawals from The Trust’s account at IberiaBank ending in 9513.

29. During the June 14, 2014, meeting the respondent told those present that he had “borrowed” the funds.

Brian McKenna O'Connell

Brian M. O’Connell is a member of O’Connell & Crispin Ackal, PLLC, where he focuses his practice primarily on estate planning and administration as well as probate litigation. Located in Palm Beach, Florida, he provides representation to clients throughout the area.

30. The respondent did not have any right or basis to “borrow” funds for his own personal benefit and not for the interests of the beneficiaries.

31. But for the intervention of the Ciklin Lubitz’ Firm’s paralegal, the respondent’s misappropriations would have gone undetected.

32. The Ciklin Lubitz Firm hired an attorney who concentrates his practice handling matters concerning ethics.

That attorney advised members of the Ciklin Lubitz Firm that if the respondent replaced the misappropriated funds, the firm was not required to report the misconduct to The Florida Bar.

33. The respondent repaid the misappropriated funds, plus interest, over a six-month period. The first payment of $252,294.53 was paid by the respondent on June 19, 2014.

The final payment of $265,604.87 was paid by the respondent on December 31, 2014.

34. The fact that respondent eventually paid back the misappropriated funds with interest does not excuse or mitigate the misconduct.

35. After several years, another member of the Ciklin Lubitz Firm filed a bar grievance after learning of the respondent’s misappropriations and deceptions.

36. In his November 26, 2019 and July 14, 2020 responses to The Florida Bar, respondent claimed for the first time that his right or authority to “borrow” $506,455.30 from The Trust for his personal benefit and not for the interests of the beneficiaries was permitted under sections 11.1 (A) and
(D) of the trust.

Those sections are set forth below:

(A) With regard to both real and personal property, for the purpose of obtaining funds for payment of taxes, claims and the costs of administration of Settlor’s estate, if authorized, and for making distributions, conversion into cash, management of the property, and for every other proper purpose, they may acquire, invest, reinvest, exchange, lease, sell, borrow, mortgage, pledge, transfer and convey in such manner an on such terms without limit as to time as they may deem advisable, even for terms beyond the expected term of the estate or any trust, and no purchaser or lender shall be liable to see to the propriety of the transaction, nor to the application of the proceeds.

(D) To cause any property, real or personal, belonging to the trust to be held or registered in the Trustee’s name or in the name of a nominee or in such other form as the Trustee deems best without disclosing the trust relationship.

37. Section 11.1 of Brown’s trust absolutely does not provide the respondent any right or authority to “borrow” funds from The Trust for his personal benefit and not for the interests of the beneficiaries.

38. In his November 26, 2019 and July 14, 2020 responses to The Florida Bar, respondent claimed for the first time that his right or authority to “borrow” $506,455.30 from The Trust for his own personal benefit was also derived from the following Florida Statutes:

736.0802(2)(a) Subject to the rights of persons dealing with or assisting the trustee as provided in s. 736.1016, a sale, encumbrance, or other transaction involving the investment or management of trust property entered into by the trustee for the trustee’s own personal account or which is otherwise affected by a conflict between the trustee’s fiduciary and personal interests is voidable by a beneficiary affected by the transaction unless:

(a) The transaction was authorized by the terms of the trust;

736.0814(1) Notwithstanding the breadth of discretion granted to a trustee in the terms of the trust, including the use of such terms as “absolute,” “sole,” or “uncontrolled,” the trustee shall exercise a discretionary power in good faith and in accordance with the terms and purposes of the trust and the interests of the beneficiaries.

A court shall not determine that a trustee abused its discretion merely because the court would have exercised the discretion in a different manner or would not have exercised the discretion.

736.0815 General powers of trustee. —

(1) A trustee, without authorization by the court, may, except as limited or restricted by this code, exercise:

(b) Except as limited by the terms of the trust:

1. All powers over the trust property that an unmarried competent owner has over individually owned property.

736.0816(19) Make loans out of trust property, including, but not limited to, loans to a beneficiary on terms and conditions that are fair and reasonable under the circumstances, and the trustee has a lien on future distributions for repayment of those loans.

39. Those statutes do not provide the respondent with any right or authority to “borrow” funds from The Trust for his own personal benefit and not for the interests of the beneficiaries.

Brian McKenna O'Connell (Fl. Bar Profile)

COUNT II – THE DECEPTIVE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS AND INCOME TAX RETURNS

40. The charitable contributions were ultimately paid by respondent as follows:

6/19/14 Cardinal Newman – contribution to art room – $75,000.00

6/19/14 Catholic Charities Elder Affairs Program $175,000.00

12/30/14 Cardinal Newman High School $199,588.03

12/30/14 St. Juliana Catholic School $40,000.00

12/30/14 University of Florida $20,000.00

12/30/14 Rosarian Academy $15,000.00

41. On or about December 30, 2014, the respondent forwarded a $20,000.00 check to the University of Florida as a Law Review pledge on a starter check from the Trust’s IberiaBank Account ending in 9313.

The check was sent without a cover letter.

42. The respondent’s file at the Ciklin Lubitz firm did contain a cover letter, which clearly identified the pledge as being a charitable contribution from the Trust.

(The cover letter and check maintained in the Brown file is attached hereto and incorporated herein as The Florida Bar’s Exhibit 2.)

43. The respondent caused that $20,000.00 check to the University of Florida to be considered as his own personal contribution to the Law Review, as opposed to a contribution from The Trust.

44. After being confronted by The Florida Bar through its investigation, the respondent took action to “change” the name of the benefactor from his own name to the actual contributor – Nancy C. Brown concerning the contribution to the University of Florida.

45. Respondent’s conduct of misrepresenting the $20,000.00 bequest to the University of Florida as his own charitable contribution was dishonest, deceitful and a misrepresentation.

46. Consistent with respondent’s misrepresentation to the University of Florida as to the true contributor, the respondent additionally took the $20,000.00 bequest by Brown to the University of Florida as a charitable deduction on his own 2014 tax return.

(A copy of the relevant pages of Brian O’Connell’s 2014 tax return provided by him to The Florida Bar upon request is attached hereto and incorporated herein as The Florida Bar’s Exhibit 3.)

47. When an individual submits his or her income tax return, he or she does so allege under penalties of perjury that he or she has examined the return and to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, the return and accompanying schedules are true, correct and complete.

48. Respondent’s conduct of misrepresenting the $20,000.00 bequest to the University of Florida as his own charitable contribution qualifying as a deduction on his 2014 Federal Income Tax return was not, “true, correct and complete”, rather it was clearly dishonest, deceitful and a misrepresentation.

By the conduct set forth above, respondent violated R. Regulating Fla. Bar 3-4.3

[Misconduct and Minor Misconduct.

The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive, nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct to be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct.

The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.];

3-4.4 Criminal Misconduct.

A determination or judgment by a court of competent jurisdiction that a member of The Florida Bar is guilty of any crime or offense that is a felony under the laws of that court’s jurisdiction is cause for automatic suspension from the practice of law in Florida, unless the judgment or order is modified or stayed by the Supreme Court of Florida, as provided in these rules.

The Florida Bar may initiate disciplinary action regardless of whether the respondent has been tried, acquitted, or convicted in a court for an alleged criminal misdemeanor or felony offense.

The board may, in its discretion, withhold prosecution of disciplinary proceedings pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against the respondent.

If a respondent is acquitted in a criminal proceeding that acquittal is not a bar to disciplinary proceedings.

Likewise, the findings, judgment, or decree of any court in civil proceedings is not necessarily binding in disciplinary proceedings.];

4-8.4(b)

[A lawyer shall not commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.];

4-8.4(c)

[A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, except that it shall not be professional misconduct for a lawyer for a criminal law enforcement agency or regulatory agency to advise others about or to supervise another in an undercover investigation, unless prohibited by law or rule, and it shall not be professional misconduct for a lawyer employed in a capacity other than as a lawyer by a criminal law enforcement agency or regulatory agency to participate in an undercover investigation, unless prohibited by law or rule.]

and 5-1.1(b)

[Application of Trust Funds or Property to Specific Purpose. Money or other property entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, including advances for fees, costs, and expenses, is held in trust and must be applied only to that purpose. Money and other property of clients coming into the hands of a lawyer are not subject to counterclaim or setoff for attorney’s fees, and a refusal to account for and deliver over the property on demand is conversion.].

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

Phillip D O'Connell, Jr.

Randi Klayman Lazarus,
Bar Counsel The Florida Bar
Fort Lauderdale Branch Office
Lake Shore Plaza II
1300 Concord Terrace, Suite 130
Sunrise, Florida 33323
(954) 835-0233
Florida Bar No. 360929
rlazarus@floridabar.org
smiles@floridabar.org

Patricia Ann Toro Savitz,
Staff Counsel The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
(850) 561-5839
Florida Bar No. 559547
psavitz@floridabar.org

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I certify that this document has been e-filed with The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida, with a copy provided via email to Michael Edward Dutko, at michael@dutkoandkroll.com;

and to John R. Howes, Esquire, at johnrhowes@gmail.com;

a copy has been furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No. 7020 1810 0000 0813 8537, return receipt requested to Michael Edward Dutko, whose record bar address is Dutko & Kroll, P.A. 600 S. Andrews Avenue, Ste. 500, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-2851;

and furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No. 7020 1810 0000 0813 8544 to John R. Howes whose record bar address is Howes Law Group, P.A., 633 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

and via email to Randi Klayman Lazarus, Bar Counsel, rlazarus@floridabar.org and smiles@floridabar.org, on this 24th day of May 2022.

Patricia Ann Toro Savitz Staff Counsel

NOTICE OF TRIAL COUNSEL AND DESIGNATION OF PRIMARY EMAIL ADDRESS

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the trial counsel in this matter is Randi Klayman Lazarus, Bar Counsel, whose address, telephone number and primary email addresses are The Florida Bar, Fort Lauderdale Branch Office, Lake Shore Plaza II, 1300 Concord Terrace, Suite 130, Sunrise, Florida 33323, (954)835-0233 and rlazarus@floridabar.org and smiles@floridabar.org.

Respondent need not address pleadings, correspondence, etc. in this matter to anyone other than trial counsel and to Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 E Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300, psavitz@floridabar.org.

MANDATORY ANSWER NOTICE

RULE 3-7.6(h)(2), RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR, PROVIDES THAT A RESPONDENT SHALL ANSWER A COMPLAINT.

Ciklin Lubitz Firm

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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.

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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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• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

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Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



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Bankruptcy

Married with Children, Foreclosure Defense Attorney Andrew John Manie’s Sexual Misconduct Privileged

During a criminal investigation, lawyer Manie was given immunity from criminal prosecution by the Statewide Prosecutor.

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From Manie’s Online Website

(Last Visited on Jun 2, 2022)

Attorney Andrew John Manie grew up in South Florida. After graduating from High School, he joined the United States Marine Corp.

After serving his country honorably, Attorney Manie attended Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida.

He obtained his certificate in trial advocacy as well as his juris doctorate degree.

Mr. Manie spent several years with private firms throughout Central Florida, representing clients in consumer bankruptcies, foreclosure defense, foreclosures, debt collection, debt defense, contract drafting and disputes.

Attorney Manie has been married for over 12 years to his wife and has two wonderful children.

CONDITIONAL GUILTY PLEA FOR CONSENT JUDGMENT

MAY 27, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 2, 2022

COMES NOW, the undersigned respondent, Andrew John Manie, and files this Conditional Guilty Plea pursuant to Rule 3-7.9 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

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

2. Respondent is currently the subject of a Florida Bar disciplinary matter which has been assigned The Florida Bar File No. 2021-30,486 (5A).

There has been a finding of probable cause by the grievance committee.

3. Respondent is acting freely and voluntarily in this matter and tenders this plea without fear or threat of coercion.

Respondent is represented by counsel in this matter.

EXHIBIT A

4. The disciplinary measures to be imposed upon respondent are as follows:

A. A six-month suspension from the practice of law with proof of rehabilitation prior to reinstatement.

B. Upon reinstatement to the practice of law, a four-year period of probation with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. (FLA, Inc.) with the following conditions:

i. Respondent will participate actively in the program offered by FLA, Inc., by signing a rehabilitation contract with that organization within 30 days of the order of the Supreme Court of Florida recommending reinstatement. Respondent shall follow all recommendations by FLA, Inc. during the entire probation period.

ii. Respondent will pay a FLA, Inc., registration fee of $250.00 and a probation monitoring fee of $100.00 per month directly to FLA, Inc. The Florida Bar will monitor respondent’s compliance with his FLA, Inc. rehabilitation contract, including nonpayment of the monthly monitoring fees.

Should respondent fail to pay FLA, Inc., respondent’s failure to pay will be reported to The Florida Bar and the bar will follow up, with regards to respondent’s noncompliance, up to and including holding respondent in contempt for failure to pay the monthly monitoring fees.

iii. Payment of the bar’s disciplinary costs.

5. Respondent acknowledges that, unless waived or modified by the Court on motion of respondent, the court order will contain a provision that prohibits respondent from accepting new business from the date of the order or opinion and shall provide that the suspension is effective 30 days from the date of the order or opinion so that respondent may close out the practice of law and protect the interest of existing clients.

6. The following allegations provide the basis for respondent’s guilty plea and for the discipline to be imposed in this matter:

A. On January 15, 2021, during a criminal investigation, respondent was interviewed by agents of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.

Prior to providing a statement, respondent was given immunity from criminal prosecution by the Statewide Prosecutor.

Respondent voluntarily admitted to the agents and the Assistant Statewide Prosecutor that, in September 2019, respondent responded to an advertisement posted on an escort website and committed a sexual act with a woman in exchange for money.

When respondent entered the escort website, the website displayed a message stating that you must be 21 years or older to enter the website.

B. During this time, the respondent was under severe emotional and mental distress.

The advertisement that respondent responded to stated that the escort in the picture was over the age of 18 years old, and the individual who the respondent visited appeared to be much older than 18 years old.

C. At the time of the act in 2019, respondent, who was 30 years old at the time, believed he was meeting with an escort that was over the age of 18, however, the individual, was in fact 17 years and 9 months of age.

When, during the interview of the respondent by the agents, the respondent was told of the victim’s age, he was so upset she was underaged, he broke down in tears.

The Assistant Statewide Prosecutor stated she believed the respondent was not aware of the victim’s age.

D. Pursuant to the grant of immunity, respondent was not criminally prosecuted for the offense.

7. The following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar provide the basis for the discipline to be imposed in this matter:

3-4.3 [Misconduct and Minor Misconduct];

3-4.4 [Criminal Misconduct];

and

4-8.4(b) [Misconduct].

8. In aggravation, although respondent was unaware at the time of his misconduct of both facts, the victim was vulnerable as she was a minor and was a victim of human trafficking [Standard 3.2(b)(8)].

9. The respondent offers the following factors in mitigation:

A. The respondent has no prior disciplinary record [Standard 3.3(b)(1)].

B. The respondent is an Iraqi War Veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps from 2007 until 2011 when he was medically retired due to debilitating medical conditions which arose during his service and are ongoing to the present time.

As a result of his military service, respondent endured physical and mental trauma and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

In addition, respondent experienced significant and repeated trauma during his childhood, which in combination with his PTSD and ongoing health issues resulted in significant mental health issues which was a substantial contributing factor in the underlying misconduct [Standard 3.3(b)(3) and 3.3(b)(8)].

C. The respondent has provided full and free disclosure to the bar and demonstrated a cooperative attitude toward the proceedings and has cooperated with the Statewide Prosecutor’s office [Standard 3.3(b)(5)].

D. The respondent was inexperienced in the practice of law at the time of the misconduct [Standard 3.3(b)(6)].

E. The respondent has good character and reputation within the community.

Respondent honorably served his country in Iraq and mentors fellow Marines suffering through post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Respondent is a sole practitioner and also regularly provides pro-bono legal services to those in need [Standard 3.3(b)(7)].

F. The respondent has been undergoing independent and ongoing counseling and treatment for more than eight months and he entered into a rehabilitation contract with FLA, Inc. on November 17, 2021, [Standard 3.3(b)(10)].

G. The respondent is sincerely remorseful for his actions [Standard 3.3(b)(12)].

10. The proposed sanction is supported by the following dispositions in recent cases:

A. In The Florida Bar v. Patrick James Landy Jr., Case No. SC20-1578 (Fla. Nov. 12, 2020), a former Assistant State Attorney was arrested and charged by information with Aggravated Stalking, a third-degree felony, and with Threats or Extortion, a second-degree felony.

He created and used fake social media accounts, hiding his identity, to harass, stalk and threaten his former girlfriend, who was also a Florida Assistant State Attorney.

In the criminal case, Mr. Landy entered no contest pleas to two amended charges of misdemeanor stalking.

Adjudication was withheld and respondent was placed on probation for one year as to each count to run consecutive, for a total of two years of probation with special conditions.

In the bar case, the Florida Bar agreed to a Consent Judgment for a public reprimand, three years of probation and participation in FLA Inc., which was approved by the Court.

Like the respondent, Mr. Landy had multiple mitigation factors, including absence of a prior disciplinary record, personal or emotional problems, full and free disclosure to disciplinary board or cooperative attitude toward proceedings, inexperience in the practice of law, physical or mental disability or impairment or substance-related disorder, interim rehabilitation, and remorse.

B. In The Florida Bar v. Gregory John Hoag, Case No. SC21-1683 (Fla. Dec. 16, 2021), the respondent pled no contest to misdemeanor domestic battery in July 2019.

Adjudication was withheld, and respondent was placed on probation with conditions, including abstaining from consuming alcohol, submitting to random urinalysis screenings, and attending a 29-week domestic violence intervention program.

Respondent successfully completed the terms of his criminal probation in June 2020.

A Consent Judgment for public reprimand by publication and completion of three-year FLA, Inc. contract was approved by the Court.

Mitigation included absence of a prior disciplinary record, personal or emotional problems, full and free disclosure to the bar or cooperative attitude toward the proceedings, and imposition of other penalties or sanctions.

C. In The Florida Bar v. Juan Carlos Mercado Jr., Case No. SC21-1404 (Fla. Oct. 14, 2021), an Assistant State Attorney who engaged in a sexual relationship with a defendant who was pending prosecution by his office, provided confidential information to the defendant and offered her advice and assistance regarding her case, was suspended for six months.

Mitigation included inexperience in the practice of law, no prior disciplinary history, remorse, interim rehabilitation (counseling), good reputation in the legal community and community service.

D. In The Florida Bar v. Abraham Elmazahi, Case No. SC21- 781 (Fla. June 10, 2021), an Assistant State Attorney began a sexual relationship with the victim of a defendant he was prosecuting and filed additional charges against the defendant during his relationship with the victim.

The Court approved a Consent Judgment for a 90-day suspension with a three-year term of probation and attendance at a professional workshop and Ethics School.

Mitigation included absence of prior discipline, absence of dishonest or selfish motive, inexperience in the practice of law, cooperative attitude towards the proceedings and full and free disclosure to the bar, reputation and character in the community, the imposition of other sanctions, and remorse.

11. The Florida Bar has approved this proposed plea in the manner required by Rule 3-7.9.

12. If this plea is not finally approved by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar and the Supreme Court of Florida, then it shall be of no effect and may not be used by the parties in any way.

13. Respondent agrees to eliminate all indicia of respondent’s status as an attorney on email, social media, telephone listings, stationery, checks, business cards, office signs or any other indicia of respondent’s status as an attorney, whatsoever.

14. If this plea is approved, then respondent agrees to pay all reasonable costs associated with this case pursuant to Rule 3-7.6(q) in the amount of $1,376.00. These costs are due within 30 days of the court order.

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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

on

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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