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The Millionaire Beach Bum Series: Former Florida Lawyer Jordan Weinkle’s US Army Hoax

LIF provides the first in a series of articles investigating the revocation of Jordan Weinkle’s license to operate as a lawyer in Florida.



The $60k Property Tax Complaint is Just One Theft from the Premeditated $6 Million Dollar+ Scam

LIF is releasing a series of articles on the Weinkle Abergel Law Group (and it’s many shell sham entities) and the multi-million dollar embezzlement, wherein, to date, neither is facing criminal charges and we want to know why…

FEB 26, 2022

The information available from the Florida Bar was scant as to why Jordan Garrett Weinkle’s law license was surrendered. LIF decided to investigate and it’s turned out to be a case which could become a Neflix movie.

In January’s Florida Bar Disciplinary Publication, Weinkle is the last mention in a long list of disciplined lawyers

JAN 1, 2022

Jordan Garrett Weinkle, 1688 Meridian Ave., Suite 440, Miami Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following a December 2 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2015)

Allegations in a related underlying emergency suspension proceeding include misappropriation of funds held in trust to pay property taxes in a mortgage transaction; misrepresentations; and failure to respond to Bar inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-1459).

Weinkle Admitted to Florida Bar in 2015, License Surrendered in 2021.

MAY 13, 2015 – DEC 2, 2021

The Florida Bar Audit and Investigation Report, which is not publicly available on the Profile of Jordan Weinkle at the Bar website. Subsequent to our tweets, the Florida Bar has pulled all documents, incl. the disciplinary revocation from its website.


30 August, 2021

This petition of The Florida Bar seeks emergency relief and requires the immediate attention of the court pursuant to Rule 3-5.2 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

The Florida Bar seeks the emergency suspension of Jordan Garrett Weinkle, attorney no. 116476, from the practice of law in Florida based on facts that establish clearly and convincingly that Jordan Garrett Weinkle appears to be causing great public harm.

This Petition is supported by the affidavit of Thomas C. Duarte, Certified Public Accountant and Florida Bar staff auditor, attached as Exhibit 1; the affidavit of Thomas Reilly, Florida Bar staff investigator, attached as Exhibit 2; and an email from respondent dated November 22, 2020, attached as Exhibit 3, as follows:

1. The filing of this Petition for Emergency Suspension has been authorized by the Executive Director of The Florida Bar.

2. Respondent, Jordan Garrett Weinkle, is and at all times hereinafter mentioned, was a member of The Florida Bar and subject to the jurisdiction and disciplinary rules of the Supreme Court of Florida.

3. Respondent is currently the subject of a bar disciplinary matter which has been assigned The Florida Bar file number 2021-70,280 (11P) MES.

4. The Florida Bar’s investigation of this matter indicates that respondent misappropriated funds he had an obligation to hold in his trust account.

5. Moreover, respondent has not responded to bar inquiries regarding this matter. (See Exhibit 1).

6. The enclosed affidavit of Thomas C. Duarte is used by the bar to support this Petition for Emergency Suspension. (See Exhibit 1).

7. On January 19, 2021, Salvador Pulverenti filed a bar complaint against respondent. Respondent’s law firm was retained to be the settlement agent for a mortgage transaction to which Mr. Pulverenti was a party. The settlement date for the mortgage transaction was September 9, 2020.

The dedicated social media (instagram) account for WA Legal, a joint venture between Weinkle and Abergel.

8. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement, respondent was required to hold $60,000.00 in trust for the express purpose of paying the property taxes on the property in question.

9. The staff auditor conducted a thorough review of the firm’s trust account records, dated June 28, 2020 through January 31, 2021, for respondent’s law firm Weinkle Legal Group PLLC IOTA Trust Account number xxxx9147 held at Professional Bank. The staff auditor’s review identified nearly all of the credits and charges for the subject mortgage transaction in the records the bar received from the bank.

10. However, the staff auditor was not able to locate any evidence that the $60,000.00 escrow holdback for the 2020 property taxes had been paid from this account. A review of the records from each of the firm’s six additional trust and operating bank accounts showed no indication that the real estate taxes at issue had been paid.

11. Indeed, the real estate taxes in Miami-Dade County had not been paid, as evidenced by a copy of the 2020 Delinquent Tax Certificate, attached as Exhibit D to the auditor’s affidavit.

12. After reviewing bank records between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, the bar’s staff auditor also determined that the trust accounts do not contain sufficient funds to pay the property taxes in question.

13. Moreover, respondent made misrepresentations to participants in the mortgage transaction to account for his misconduct. For instance, on November 22, 2020, respondent emailed the loan broker Expomarca, LLC., for the property transaction with the excuse that he had been “juggling” his law practice with his military career for about eight to ten months. (See Exhibit 3).

14. However, respondent has no record of being on past, current, or future active duty in any branch of the armed forces. (See Exhibit 2).

The Florida Bar investigation revealed that Jordan Garrett Weinkle has never served his country, in any capacity.

15. In addition to the above, the staff auditor discovered that respondent issued the firm’s payroll checks for September 2020, from the Popular Bank account for Weinkle Legal Group IOLTA account xxxxxx0983. Payment of the firm’s operating expenses from the firm’s trust account suggests an additional incidence of misappropriation of client and/or third party funds.

16. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: 4-1.15 (Safekeeping Property); 4-8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation);

4-8.4(g) (failure to respond to Florida Bar inquiries); and 5-1.1 (Trust Accounts).

WHEREFORE, based on the facts, the bar asserts respondent has caused, or is likely to cause, immediate and serious harm to clients and/or the public and that immediate action must be taken for the protection of respondent’s clients and the public. Therefore, pursuant to Rule 3-5.2, The Florida Bar respectfully requests this court to:

A. Suspend respondent from the practice of law until further order of this court.

B. Order respondent to accept no new clients from the date of this Court’s order and to cease representing any clients after 30 days from the date of this Court’s order. Within the 30 days from the date of this Court’s order, respondent shall wind down all pending matters and shall not initiate any litigation on behalf of clients.

Respondent shall withdraw from all representation within 30 days from the date of this Court’s order.

In addition, respondent shall cease acting as personal representative for any estate, as guardian for any ward, and as trustee for any trust and will withdraw from said representation within thirty days from the date of this court’s order and will immediately turn over to any successor the complete financial records of any estate, guardianship, or trust upon the successor’s appointment.

C. Order respondent to furnish a copy of the suspension order to all clients, opposing counsel and courts before which Jordan Garrett Weinkle is counsel of record as required by Rule 3-5.1(h) and to furnish Staff Counsel with the requisite affidavit listing all clients, opposing counsel and courts so informed within 30 days after receipt of the court’s order.

The multi-million dollar Florida property and Bar complaint that LIT a fire under LIF to investigate. And investigate we have….

D. Order respondent to refrain from withdrawing or disbursing any money from any trust account related to respondent’s law practice until further order of this court, a judicial referee appointed by this court or by order of the Circuit Court in an inventory attorney proceeding instituted under Rule 1-3.8, and to deposit any fees, or other sums received in connection with the practice of law or in connection with respondent’s employment as a personal representative, guardian or trustee, paid to respondent after issuance of this Court’s order of emergency suspension, into a specified trust account from which withdrawal may only be made in accordance with restrictions imposed by this Court.

Further, respondent shall be required to notify bar counsel of The Florida Bar of the receipt and location of said funds within 30 days of the order of emergency suspension.

E. Order respondent to not withdraw any money from any trust account or other financial institution account related to respondent’s law practice or transfer any ownership of any real or personal property purchased in whole or in part with funds properly belonging to clients, probate estates for which respondent served as personal representative, guardianship estates for which respondent served as guardian, and trusts for which respondent served as trustee without approval of this court, a judicial referee appointed by this court or by order of the Circuit Court in an inventory attorney proceeding instituted under Rule 1-3.8.

F. Order respondent to notify, in writing, all banks and financial institutions where the respondent maintains an account related to the practice of law, or related to services rendered as a personal representative of an estate, or related to services rendered as a guardian, or related to services rendered as a trustee, or where respondent maintains an account that contains funds that originated from a probate estate for which respondent was personal representative, guardianship estate for which respondent was guardian, or trust for which respondent was trustee, of the provisions of this Court’s order and to provide all the aforementioned banks and financial institutions with a copy of this Court’s order.

Further, respondent shall be required to provide Bar Counsel with an affidavit listing each bank or financial institution respondent provided with a copy of said order.

G. Order respondent to immediately comply with and provide all documents and testimony responsive to a subpoena from The Florida Bar for trust account records and any related documents necessary for completion of a trust account audit to be conducted by The Florida Bar.

H. Authorize any Referee appointed in these proceedings to determine entitlement to funds in any trust account(s) frozen as a result of an Order entered in this matter.

Respectfully submitted,

Rita Florez,
Bar Counsel The Florida Bar
Miami Branch Office
444 Brickell Avenue
Rivergate Plaza,
Suite M-100 Miami,
Florida 33131-2404
(305) 377-4445
Florida Bar No. 1011307

Staff Counsel The Florida Bar
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee,Florida 32399-2300
(850) 561-5600
Florida Bar No. 559547

Executive Director The Florida Bar
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
(850) 561-5600
Florida Bar No. 25902


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 Respondent’s Counsel, Richard Baron, at; and that a copy has been furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No. 7020 0090 0000 6804 8422, return receipt requested to Respondent’s Counsel, Richard Baron, whose record bar address is 169 E. Flagler Street, Suite 700, Miami, FL 33131-1203 and via email to Rita Florez, Bar Counsel,, on this 30th day of August, 2021.

Staff Counsel The Florida Bar
651 East Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
(850) 561-5600
Florida Bar No. 559547


PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that bar counsel in this matter is Rita Elizabeth Florez, Bar Counsel, whose address, telephone number and primary email address are The Florida Bar, Miami Branch Office, 444 Brickell Avenue, Rivergate Plaza, Suite M-100, Miami, Florida 33131-2404,
(305) 377-4445 and Respondent need not address pleadings, correspondence, etc. in this matter to anyone other than bar counsel and to Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300,



Weinkle, via his Lawyer, Richard Baron – Who Knows All the Facts in this Case – Responds with a Stack of Lies to the Bar’s Complaint.

SEP 22, 2021


Respondent, through counsel, files his answer to the Florida

Bar’s Petition for Emergency Suspension and states:

1. The Respondent is without knowledge.

2. Admits.

3. Admits.

4. Denies.

5. Admits.

6. Admits that the affidavit of Thomas C. Duarte is attached to the Petition.

Without knowledge to the accuracy of the statements contained therein, therefore the remainder of Paragraph 6 is Denied.

7. Admits that a Bar complaint was filed against Respondent.

Denies the Respondent’s law firm was retained to be the settlement agent for a mortgage transaction.

Respondent alleges the Settlement Agent was Doreen Parrondo, a licensed title agent in the State of Florida who exceeded her authority in several ways more fully set forth below.

8. Denies that the Settlement Agreement required that Respondent was to hold $60,000 in trust.

Respondent alleges that an “Escrow Holdback Agreement” was prepared by Doreen Parrondo which provided that $60,000.00 was to be held in escrow.

Respondent alleges that Doreen Parrondo did not have the authority to prepare or execute the Escrow Holdback Agreement.

Respondent further alleges that Respondent has no knowledge of who was required to hold the $60,000.00 in excess closing funds or even if there were excess closing funds.

Respondent further alleges that Respondent was in Europe at the time of the closing of this mortgage transaction and had no role in the closing.

Respondent alleges that there were misrepresentations to all parties made by someone other than the Respondent that Respondent was responsible for the $60,000.00 in escrow.

9. Without knowledge, therefore it is Denied.

10. Without knowledge, therefore it is Denied.

11. Admits that a copy of the 2020 Delinquent Tax Certificate was attached to auditor’s affidavit;

Respondent is without knowledge to the remainder of paragraph 11, and is therefore Denied. Respondent alleges it wasn’t Respondent’s responsibility to pay the real estate taxes.

12. Without knowledge, therefore it is Denied.

13. Admits an email was sent on November 20, 2020. Denies the remaining allegations of paragraph 13.

14. Denied.

15. Without knowledge, therefore it is Denied.

16. Without knowledge, therefore it is Denied.

Wherefore, having answered the Petition, Respondent demands that this matter be dismissed.

Respectfully submitted,

Baron, Breslin & Sarmiento
Fl. Rule of Jud. Admin. 2.516
Notice Primary email:
Secondary Email:

s/ Richard Baron
Filed of Record via Eportal

Richard Baron, Esq. Fla. Bar # 178675
Baron, Breslin & Sarmiento
The DuPont Building
169 East Flagler Street Suite 700
Miami, Fl 33131
Tel.: 305-577-4626
Fax.: 305-577-4630

Certificate Of Service

I HEREBY CERTIFY that this notice was served via Eportal The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida; on Rita Florez, Bar Counsel The Florida Bar Miami Branch Office, 444 Brickell Avenue, Rivergate Plaza, Suite M-100 Miami, Florida 33131-2404, email:; Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Esq., Bar Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL via email; Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Esq., Bar Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL via email, on September 22, 2021.

s/ Richard Baron

Richard Baron, Esq. Attorney for Respondent

Rule 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal – Comment



[1] This Rule governs the conduct of a lawyer who is representing a client in the proceedings of a tribunal. See Rule 1.0(m) for the definition of “tribunal.” It also applies when the lawyer is representing a client in an ancillary proceeding conducted pursuant to the tribunal’s adjudicative authority, such as a deposition.

Thus, for example, paragraph (a)(3) requires a lawyer to take reasonable remedial measures if the lawyer comes to know that a client who is testifying in a deposition has offered evidence that is false.

[2] This Rule sets forth the special duties of lawyers as officers of the court to avoid conduct that undermines the integrity of the adjudicative process. A lawyer acting as an advocate in an adjudicative proceeding has an obligation to present the client’s case with persuasive force. Performance of that duty while maintaining confidences of the client, however, is qualified by the advocate’s duty of candor to the tribunal.

Consequently, although a lawyer in an adversary proceeding is not required to present an impartial exposition of the law or to vouch for the evidence submitted in a cause, the lawyer must not allow the tribunal to be misled by false statements of law or fact or evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.

Representations by a Lawyer

[3] An advocate is responsible for pleadings and other documents prepared for litigation, but is usually not required to have personal knowledge of matters asserted therein, for litigation documents ordinarily present assertions by the client, or by someone on the client’s behalf, and not assertions by the lawyer. Compare Rule 3.1.

However, an assertion purporting to be on the lawyer’s own knowledge, as in an affidavit by the lawyer or in a statement in open court, may properly be made only when the lawyer knows the assertion is true or believes it to be true on the basis of a reasonably diligent inquiry.

There are circumstances where failure to make a disclosure is the equivalent of an affirmative misrepresentation. The obligation prescribed in Rule 1.2(d) not to counsel a client to commit or assist the client in committing a fraud applies in litigation. Regarding compliance with Rule 1.2(d), see the Comment to that Rule. See also the Comment to Rule 8.4(b).
Legal Argument

[4] Legal argument based on a knowingly false representation of law constitutes dishonesty toward the tribunal.

A lawyer is not required to make a disinterested exposition of the law, but must recognize the existence of pertinent legal authorities. Furthermore, as stated in paragraph (a)(2), an advocate has a duty to disclose directly adverse authority in the controlling jurisdiction that has not been disclosed by the opposing party.

The underlying concept is that legal argument is a discussion seeking to determine the legal premises properly applicable to the case.

Offering Evidence

[5] Paragraph (a)(3) requires that the lawyer refuse to offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false, regardless of the client’s wishes.

This duty is premised on the lawyer’s obligation as an officer of the court to prevent the trier of fact from being misled by false evidence. A lawyer does not violate this Rule if the lawyer offers the evidence for the purpose of establishing its falsity.

[6] If a lawyer knows that the client intends to testify falsely or wants the lawyer to introduce false evidence, the lawyer should seek to persuade the client that the evidence should not be offered.

If the persuasion is ineffective and the lawyer continues to represent the client, the lawyer must refuse to offer the false evidence.

If only a portion of a witness’s testimony will be false, the lawyer may call the witness to testify but may not elicit or otherwise permit the witness to present the testimony that the lawyer knows is false.

[7] The duties stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) apply to all lawyers, including defense counsel in criminal cases. In some jurisdictions, however, courts have required counsel to present the accused as a witness or to give a narrative statement if the accused so desires, even if counsel knows that the testimony or statement will be false

. The obligation of the advocate under the Rules of Professional Conduct is subordinate to such requirements. See also Comment [9].

[8] The prohibition against offering false evidence only applies if the lawyer knows that the evidence is false.

A lawyer’s reasonable belief that evidence is false does not preclude its presentation to the trier of fact. A lawyer’s knowledge that evidence is false, however, can be inferred from the circumstances. See Rule 1.0(f).

Thus, although a lawyer should resolve doubts about the veracity of testimony or other evidence in favor of the client, the lawyer cannot ignore an obvious falsehood.

[9] Although paragraph (a)(3) only prohibits a lawyer from offering evidence the lawyer knows to be false, it permits the lawyer to refuse to offer testimony or other proof that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.

Offering such proof may reflect adversely on the lawyer’s ability to discriminate in the quality of evidence and thus impair the lawyer’s effectiveness as an advocate. Because of the special protections historically provided criminal defendants, however, this Rule does not permit a lawyer to refuse to offer the testimony of such a client where the lawyer reasonably believes but does not know that the testimony will be false.

Unless the lawyer knows the testimony will be false, the lawyer must honor the client’s decision to testify. See also Comment [7].

Remedial Measures

[10] Having offered material evidence in the belief that it was true, a lawyer may subsequently come to know that the evidence is false.

Or, a lawyer may be surprised when the lawyer’s client, or another witness called by the lawyer, offers testimony the lawyer knows to be false, either during the lawyer’s direct examination or in response to cross-examination by the opposing lawyer.

In such situations or if the lawyer knows of the falsity of testimony elicited from the client during a deposition, the lawyer must take reasonable remedial measures.

In such situations, the advocate’s proper course is to remonstrate with the client confidentially, advise the client of the lawyer’s duty of candor to the tribunal and seek the client’s cooperation with respect to the withdrawal or correction of the false statements or evidence. If that fails, the advocate must take further remedial action.

If withdrawal from the representation is not permitted or will not undo the effect of the false evidence, the advocate must make such disclosure to the tribunal as is reasonably necessary to remedy the situation, even if doing so requires the lawyer to reveal information that otherwise would be protected by Rule 1.6.

It is for the tribunal then to determine what should be done — making a statement about the matter to the trier of fact, ordering a mistrial or perhaps nothing.

[11] The disclosure of a client’s false testimony can result in grave consequences to the client, including not only a sense of betrayal but also loss of the case and perhaps a prosecution for perjury.

But the alternative is that the lawyer cooperate in deceiving the court, thereby subverting the truth-finding process which the adversary system is designed to implement. See Rule 1.2(d).

Furthermore, unless it is clearly understood that the lawyer will act upon the duty to disclose the existence of false evidence, the client can simply reject the lawyer’s advice to reveal the false evidence and insist that the lawyer keep silent.

Thus the client could in effect coerce the lawyer into being a party to fraud on the court.
Preserving Integrity of Adjudicative Process

[12] Lawyers have a special obligation to protect a tribunal against criminal or fraudulent conduct that undermines the integrity of the adjudicative process, such as bribing, intimidating or otherwise unlawfully communicating with a witness, juror, court official or other participant in the proceeding, unlawfully destroying or concealing documents or other evidence or failing to disclose information to the tribunal when required by law to do so.

Thus, paragraph (b) requires a lawyer to take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure if necessary, whenever the lawyer knows that a person, including the lawyer’s client, intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding.

Duration of Obligation

[13] A practical time limit on the obligation to rectify false evidence or false statements of law and fact has to be established. The conclusion of the proceeding is a reasonably definite point for the termination of the obligation. A proceeding has concluded within the meaning of this Rule when a final judgment in the proceeding has been affirmed on appeal or the time for review has passed.

Ex Parte Proceedings

[14] Ordinarily, an advocate has the limited responsibility of presenting one side of the matters that a tribunal should consider in reaching a decision; the conflicting position is expected to be presented by the opposing party.

However, in any ex parte proceeding, such as an application for a temporary restraining order, there is no balance of presentation by opposing advocates. The object of an ex parte proceeding is nevertheless to yield a substantially just result.

The judge has an affirmative responsibility to accord the absent party just consideration. The lawyer for the represented party has the correlative duty to make disclosures of material facts known to the lawyer and that the lawyer reasonably believes are necessary to an informed decision.


[15] Normally, a lawyer’s compliance with the duty of candor imposed by this Rule does not require that the lawyer withdraw from the representation of a client whose interests will be or have been adversely affected by the lawyer’s disclosure.

The lawyer may, however, be required by Rule 1.16(a) to seek permission of the tribunal to withdraw if the lawyer’s compliance with this Rule’s duty of candor results in such an extreme deterioration of the client-lawyer relationship that the lawyer can no longer competently represent the client. Also see Rule 1.16(b) for the circumstances in which a lawyer will be permitted to seek a tribunal’s permission to withdraw.

In connection with a request for permission to withdraw that is premised on a client’s misconduct, a lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation only to the extent reasonably necessary to comply with this Rule or as otherwise permitted by Rule 1.6.


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U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Southern District of Florida (Miami)
Bankruptcy Petition #: 21-15808-RAM

Assigned to: Robert A Mark
Chapter 7
No assetDebtor disposition:  Dismissed for Failure to File Information
Date filed:   06/15/2021
Date terminated:   08/11/2021
Debtor dismissed:   07/07/2021
341 meeting:   07/20/2021
Deadline for objecting to discharge:   09/20/2021


Jordan Garrett Weinkle
3221 NE 165th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33160
SSN / ITIN: xxx-xx-0000
Tax ID / EIN: 83-2808488, 83-3170460
dba The Forum Residences, LLC
dba Tavor Management, LLC
represented by Jordan Garrett Weinkle
Robert A Angueira
16 SW 1st Avenue
Miami, FL 33130
U.S. Trustee
Office of the US Trustee
51 S.W. 1st Ave.
Suite 1204
Miami, FL 33130
(305) 536-7285


Filing Date # Docket Text
06/15/2021 1
(9 pgs)
Chapter 7 Voluntary Petition . [Fee Amount $338] (Weinkle, Jordan) (Entered: 06/15/2021)
06/15/2021 2 Meeting of Creditors to be held on 07/20/2021 at 09:00 AM by TELEPHONE [See Meeting Notice for details]. Objections to Discharge/Dischargeability due by 09/20/2021. (Weinkle, Jordan) (Entered: 06/15/2021)
06/15/2021 6
(2 pgs)
Amended Notice of Deadline to Correct Filing Deficiencies. [Deficiency Must be Cured by 6/22/2021].Statement of Social Security Number Due 6/22/2021. (Covington, Katrinka) (Entered: 07/06/2021)
06/16/2021 3
(2 pgs)
Notice of Incomplete Filings Due. . [Deficiency Must be Cured by 6/23/2021].Creditor Matrix Due: 6/23/2021. Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information due 6/29/2021. Schedules A-J due 6/29/2021.Statement of Financial Affairs Due 6/29/2021.Declaration Concerning Debtors Schedules Due: 6/29/2021. Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income Form 122A-1 Due: 6/29/2021. Certificate of Budget and Credit Counseling Course (Db) due 6/29/2021. Payment Advices due for Debtor 6/29/2021. [Incomplete Filings due by 6/29/2021]. (Valencia, Yamileth) (Entered: 06/16/2021)
06/16/2021 4 Meeting of Creditors Notice Withheld From Mailing Due to Creditors Matrix Deficiency.. (Re: 2 Meeting of Creditors to be held on 07/20/2021 at 09:00 AM by TELEPHONE [See Meeting Notice for details]. Objections to Discharge/Dischargeability due by 09/20/2021.) (Valencia, Yamileth) (Entered: 06/16/2021)
06/18/2021 5
(3 pgs)
BNC Certificate of Mailing (Re: 3 Notice of Incomplete Filings Due. . [Deficiency Must be Cured by 6/23/2021].Creditor Matrix Due: 6/23/2021. Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information due 6/29/2021. Schedules A-J due 6/29/2021.Statement of Financial Affairs Due 6/29/2021.Declaration Concerning Debtors Schedules Due: 6/29/2021. Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income Form 122A-1 Due: 6/29/2021. Certificate of Budget and Credit Counseling Course (Db) due 6/29/2021. Payment Advices due for Debtor 6/29/2021. [Incomplete Filings due by 6/29/2021].) Notice Date 06/18/2021. (Admin.) (Entered: 06/19/2021)
07/07/2021 7
(2 pgs)
Order Dismissing Case for Failure to File Creditor Matrix, Statement of Social Security Number The following additional requirements remain outstanding: Summary of Schedules, Schedules A-J, Unsworn Declaration, Statement of Financial Affairs, Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income, Db Certificate of Credit Counseling, Db Payment Advices, [Filing Fee Balance Due: $0.00] . (Barr, Ida) (Entered: 07/07/2021)
07/07/2021 8 Chapter 7 Trustee’s Report of No Distribution: I, Robert A Angueira, having been appointed trustee of the estate of the above-named debtor(s), report that this case was dismissed or converted. I have neither received any property nor paid any monies on account of this estate. I hereby certify that the chapter 7 estate of the above named debtor(s) has been fully administered through the date of conversion or dismissal. I request that I be discharged from any further duties as trustee. Key information about this case as reported in schedules filed by the debtor(s) or otherwise found in the case record: This case was pending for 0 months. Assets Abandoned (without deducting any secured claims): Not Applicable, Assets Exempt: Not Applicable, Claims Scheduled: Not Applicable, Claims Asserted: Not Applicable, Claims scheduled to be discharged without payment(without deducting the value of collateral or debts excepted from discharge): Not Applicable. Filed by Trustee Robert A Angueira. (Angueira, Robert) (Entered: 07/07/2021)
07/08/2021 9
(3 pgs)
BNC Certificate of Mailing (Re: 6 Amended Notice of Deadline to Correct Filing Deficiencies. [Deficiency Must be Cured by 6/22/2021].Statement of Social Security Number Due 6/22/2021.) Notice Date 07/08/2021. (Admin.) (Entered: 07/09/2021)
07/09/2021 10
(4 pgs)
BNC Certificate of Mailing – Order Dismissing Case (Re: 7 Order Dismissing Case for Failure to File Creditor Matrix, Statement of Social Security Number The following additional requirements remain outstanding: Summary of Schedules, Schedules A-J, Unsworn Declaration, Statement of Financial Affairs, Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income, Db Certificate of Credit Counseling, Db Payment Advices, [Filing Fee Balance Due: $0.00] .) Notice Date 07/09/2021. (Admin.) (Entered: 07/10/2021)
07/27/2021 11
(1 pg)
Request for Notice Filed by Creditor American Express National Bank. (Becket & Lee (SBharatia)) (Entered: 07/27/2021)
08/11/2021 12
(1 pg)
Order Discharging Trustee and Bankruptcy Case Closed. (Cohen, Diana) (Entered: 08/11/2021)
01/06/2022 13 Trustee Certification of Services Rendered Under 11 U.S.C. Section 330(e). I rendered the following service in the case and am eligible for payment under 11 U.S.C. Section 330(e): Conducted or filed a document required by rule or statute related to a meeting of creditors required by 11 U.S.C. Section 341. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. (Executed on 1/6/2022). Filed by Trustee Robert A Angueira (Re: 2 Meeting (Chapter 7)). (Angueira, Robert) (Entered: 01/06/2022)

Editors Choice

A Message for Felon Francis Santa: We Cannot Be Bribed. Stop the Harassment

Once a person has been convicted of a felony, he or she can be considered a felon for life, according to the strict meaning of the word.



Dear Santa…..

DEC. 12., 2022

We’ve set aside your plethora of harassing emails and bribes for many months. Indeed, we have never contacted the ex-wife below, who is desperate to provide more unfavorable information about you, Francis “Frank” Santa.

But now your emails are becoming both incessant and threatening, which means we have to publish all the information for our own safety.

You are a convicted felon Francis “Frank” Santa. Considering your stalking behavior, that makes you a very dangerous and untrustworthy person.

We are stating in this public forum: cease and desist from your writings, threats and stop tryin’ to bribe us with “donations”  – which are not donations as they are based on LIF and LIT removing an article about you, which is based on the real truth, no bull.

And remember Francis Santa, you are the one who came charging at us with a takedown request for the Ringel’s, indicted in NYC.

In return, all we did was google you and your business to find out who we were dealin’ with.

That’s when we discovered the information about your criminal past, which was recovered from publicly accessible information.

LIF and LIT didn’t ‘destroy’ you Frank, you did that all by yourself.

May 17, 2022


Francis Santa



I am coming hat in hand to you for help.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I am sincerely and humbly asking you for help. I do not know who I upset to find myself being personally punished on your website but there my be a good reason for which an apology on my part may be need.

If I have wronged someone there I am deeply sorry.

I am a spiritual person and have worked very hard to get to where I am in my life after having my world destroyed 11 years ago.

I have changed and I take responsibility for all my past issues, but more important to me now in life is that if I have done something to someone to offended them even without knowing why, I apologize and more forward.

Please contact me back by email or phone (305)967-3168 so I can make amends.

I do know who has so much dislike for me and took the time to hurt my wife, children and grandchildren and me and but I must have hurt them deeply for the posting to be put up about me.

Last, please understand I am not asking for sympathy or asking you to remove it.

If I have harmed someone in the last 6 years and I am wrong for something I personal did then I deserve it but also if I did nothing I don’t.

Again, please contact me and tell me what I have to do to make things right and discuses this.

Very Respectfully,


Jun 9, 2022


Francis Santa



Need your help


Dear Sir/Madam,

I sent an email to and did not receive a response.

I really need your help, please see attached.


Jul 22, 2022





Francis Frank Santa


I read with great interest your article on my former spouse – what you don’t know is that Mr. Santa is currently in arrears for child support in the amount of $196,000.

I can provide documentation for proof.

I find it quite amusing that this man cries poor mouth, continues to hide assets, resides in a gated community in Boca Raton and has started this bogus foundation.

Leopards do not change their spots –

You do realize he also spent 5 of a 15 year bid in NYS prison for a credit repair scam in which he stole 2.5 MILLION; was prosecuted by DA Morgenthau’s office and was ultimately released to the state of Florida for his parole and probation.

Probation doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what he is doing.

Child Support enforcement doesn’t give a rats ass and good luck trying to get in touch with someone.

I will never see that money he owes – – I can’t even get a life insurance policy on him – something he was to provide for his FIRST born – not the other children he has – one of which is a convicted counterfeitter.

I encourage LIF to contact me.

October 13, 2022


Francis Santa



Need your help ( )


I sent you an email many months ago.

I have put my life back together.

The past 11 years I have paid dearly for what happen.

My family has suffered the most because of the issue.

As for myself I feel that what I went threw changed me and made me a better person and took me off a bad path.

I am trying so hard to move on.

Your article about me is destroying my family.

Please contact me back to see if you can help me in some way to remove or de-index this.

I do understand that you spent a tremendous in research and time posting this.

I have no problem paying and administrative fees that you need.

I am coming to you with hat in hand for your help

Where Is He Now? Fraudster Francis Santa Was Sentenced to 88 Months for Conspiracy



December 1, 2022

Donor Comment: I wanted to donate more and will each month when I have extra money.

December 1, 2022

Donor Comment: I would like to also advertise with you.

December 8, 2022


francis santa where is he now


the former mrs santa <>

Submitted on: Dec 8, 2022 at 20:26


the former mrs santa



francis santa where is he now



ha ha now he is offering a scholarship???

lol scam people into giving money to his “foundation” that isn’t a 501c3 – so he can give it to “other” charities. Why don’t I just donate to them myself and get the tax write off?

are people that stupid?

December 8, 2022










December 12, 2022

 I am waiting patiently to talk to you regarding your posting on LIF.  I am being as respectful as I can at this time.

 I know you own the site along with LIT and you are responsible for the posting.

You have turned my life upside down for no reason.  The internet can be very cruel.

I have suffered enough with my family and you have put my life in danger.

I could understand if I did something wrong but that is not the case.

Please remove the posting or de-index it from the search engines.  I am not the only person you did this to for no reason.

 What I find interesting is that you are a media company helping people and you are also a company that destroys people.

Do your clients know this?

All I want is for you to remove the posting.

You have hurt me for more than 9 months.

I think that you made your point (whatever it was)

Donor Comment: Thank you

Boca man pleads guilty to conspiring to bribe bankers and fake financial documents

AUG 9, 2011 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: APR 22, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH — The owner of a Boca Raton company pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to bribe local bankers and falsify financial documents to secure more than $1.5 million in fraudulent small business loans and lines of credit.

Francis Santa admitted orchestrating what federal prosecutors have described as an unique form of fraud: enlisting corrupt bankers to approve business loans for clients with poor credit histories. Santa and his employees at Palm Beach Business Consultants attempted to push through more than $10 million in bogus loans and lines of credit since the firm opened in 2003, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

After federal authorities caught on to Santa’s scheme, he began working with them and agreed to introduce an undercover FBI agent to the bankers. The sting culminated in January with the arrests of 15 people, including Santa, a Broward Schools assistant principal, a former Broward Sheriff’s investigative aide and seven Broward and Palm Beach bankers.


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Editors Choice

We’re Circlin’ Back Re the Many Complaints Against Storm Damaged Florida Lawyer Scot Strems

The clients of Strems may have discovered that the insurance company was not denying their claim and they could resolve it themselves without paying 25% of the undisputed amounts to the law firm.



LIF Commentary

Our sister website, initially followed the Strems cases from 2020 and his surprising loan of over $1.2M from JPMorgan Chase, which we are unable to confirm has been forgiven or not (the lack of detail in this regard makes us believe it HAS been 100% forgiven).

This is galling when you take into account the type of business Strems was conducting and the 25% fee he was charging clients for sums these clients could obtain directly from the insurer without a lawyer, or more importantly the 25% fee.

The complaint below is detailed and very long.

The referee, which is a judge by the name of Dawn Denaro of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida is a huge fan of Scot Strems.

So much so, the once available youtube video (via the court’s own channel) of the disciplinary proceedings via zoom re Strems has been taken offline, and is labeled a ‘private video‘, despite all the incessant claims of TRANSPARENCY by the judiciary.

Y’all are lyin’ Outlaws in Dirty Black Robes at the Judiciary, that’s for sure.

Moving on, after reading this complaint, it’s pretty much a copycat of the Allan Campbell complaint we highlighted recently.

LIF is still penning more articles about Campbell’s case, and the rogue legal associates and felons he was involved with.

In that case, the Supreme Court incorrectly sanctioned Campbell to a short 3-year suspension.

We believe his actions warranted disbarment.

Here, like Campbell, Strems has several complaints ongoing, so we’ll see how the judiciary react in due course.  However, in our opinion, we agree with the Bar, it should be disbarment for Scot Strems, if justice is to be served.

Suspended attorney Strems at disbarment trial; New Bar petition says he violated suspension order – Again, this time pertainin’ to ‘Sale’ of Business.

Originally Published; Feb 1, 2022 | Republished by LIT; May 31, 2022


The Bar seeks review of the Referee’s report that recommends this Court deny a petition for contempt filed against Mr. Strems.

This Court entered an emergency suspension order on June 9, 2020, in Case No. SC20-808. (ROR p.3).

That case is currently pending on review with the Referee recommending a two-year suspension.

The Bar is seeking disbarment.

Two other subsequent disciplinary cases are also pending in SC20-842 and SC20-1739.

At the time of this suspension, Mr. Strems was the sole stockholder in The Strems Law Firm.

He had 5000 to 7000 clients and more than 100 employees, including about 30 lawyers.

(ROR p.3, T145, 319).

During the thirty-day window provided in the suspension order before he had to cease representing clients, with the help of outside counsel, Mr. Strems changed the name of his law firm to The Property Advocates, P.A.

(ROR p.69).

He had his professional association issue new, additional stock, which was sold on July 9, 2020, to three of his employee-attorneys.

(ROR p. 69).

They became the new officers of the professional association.

Simultaneously, he entered into a stock redemption agreement with the professional association

(ROR p. 70, TFB-Ex. B, p. 84).

Mr. Strems sent a letter to his clients, dated July 1, 2020, describing these events and attaching the suspension order.


The letter did not advise them of their right to seek other counsel, and it provided notice of his suspension in a manner that the Bar maintains was misleading.

The Referee is recommending that the petition for contempt be denied because she concluded that Mr. Strems did not sell his law practice for purposes of Rule 4-1.17 of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Bar maintains this is a sale for purposes of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and that the July 1 letter also violated the suspension order and Rules 4-1.4 and 4-8.4(c).


The Bar filed a petition for emergency suspension in Case No. SC20- 808 on June 5, 2020.

It alleged that Mr. Strems had violated numerous rules of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

The focus of this first petition was misconduct during litigation by Mr. Strems and his associates.

It alleged several violations of Rule 4-5.1 relating to his duties to supervise the lawyers in his law firm and to take reasonable steps to assure those lawyers conformed to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Referee has recommended that Mr. Strems be found guilty of those violations and has recommended a two-year suspension.

That proceeding is still pending on review with Mr. Strems challenging the findings of guilt and with the Bar seeking disbarment.

This Court entered the emergency suspension order on June 9, 2020.

(ROR p.3).

The standard language of this order states that “Respondent is suspended from the practice of law until further order of this Court.”

But the standard language also states that he must “cease representing any clients after thirty days of this Court’s order.”


It requires that he “immediately furnish a copy of Respondent’s suspension order to all clients.”


It is undisputed that Mr. Strems was the sole owner of Strems Law Firm, a professional association.

This firm had expanded rapidly from 2016 to the time of the emergency suspension.

The estimates of the number of clients that needed to be furnished a copy of the suspension order varied between 5000 and 7000.

(T145, 319).

The professional association employed about 30 lawyers and had a much larger number of unlicensed employees at the time of the suspension.

(ROR p. 3).

These employees worked under Mr. Strems’ supervision in a highly computer-dependent structure of separate teams to on-board clients, handle claims before suit, and handle claims after suit.

Mr. Strems’ standard “contingency fee retainer agreement” defined “attorney” as “The Strems Law Firm, P.A.”


Mr. Strems’ signature was normally the signature on the agreement that was sent to the client by the on-board team because he was the only lawyer who was actually a member of the law firm.


The contract does not specify any lawyer who will handle a matter, and no lawyer was in direct privity with the client under the terms of the contract.

But Mr. Strems recognized that he needed to notify all of these clients of his suspension.


1 During the final hearing, the fee agreement that was primarily discussed was the Evans contract, which is actually Respondent’s Exhibit 1 in SC20- 1739.


When a member of a professional association becomes “legally disqualified to render such professional services,” that member must “sever all employment with, and financial interests in, such corporation.”

See § 621.10, Fla. Stat.

Thus, it is undisputed in this case that Mr. Strems had to sever his ties with the Strems Law Firm to comply fully with this Court’s order.

Mr. Strems and Strems Law Firm hired two professionals to assist in this process.

Mr. Scott K. Tozian, who is an attorney who specializes in representation of attorneys in disciplinary proceedings, was actually hired a month before this Court issued its suspension order.


He recommended that Mr. Strems divest his interest in Strems Law Firm.


He also recommended that Mr. Strems and the Strems Law Firm hire Mr. William Kalish to help with this process because Mr. Kalish is a tax lawyer who also has experience with compliance with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

(T296-98, 406).

Mr. Kalish was retained to be the receiver to handle funds in the trust accounts and other accounts that Mr. Strems could no longer handle as a suspended lawyer.


He was also retained to address the need to sever Mr. Strems ties to the Strems Law Firm.


Mr. Kalish recommended that Mr. Strems divest himself of ownership in the professional association, and that the ownership should be placed “simultaneously” with three lawyers who had worked for the firm for at least a few years.

(T428-29, 500).

He did not recommend selling Mr. Strems’ stock directly to the three lawyers.

Instead, the full transfer of ownership was structured by having the professional association “redeem” Mr. Strems stock

(T426, TFB-Ex. B p. 84).

(TFB-Ex. B p. 84).

The professional association also issued new shares of stock that were simultaneously delivered to the three new owners of the association so that there would be no gap in ownership, membership, or in the officers required for the corporate entity.


(TFB-Ex. B p. 6-3, 33-35, 70-77, 129-34)

A few days before this transaction, the professional association changed its name to eliminate the reference to Mr. Strems and to substitute the more generic,

The Property Advocates, P.A.


To be clear, the Bar is not challenging this structure as a method for Mr. Strems to transfer ownership from himself to the three new owners.

Although in the petition and at the hearing, the Bar questioned the authority of Mr. Strems, as a suspended lawyer, to take actions for Strems Law Firm during the 30-day window in which he could have performed limited representation of his clients, the Referee ruled against the Bar on that issue.

Likewise, the Bar challenged whether “immediate” required faster action on some steps, but the Referee ruled against the Bar on that issue as well.

The Bar is not challenging those rulings in this review.

The Bar is challenging whether this transaction is a “sale of a law practice” for purposes of the requirement to notify clients under Rule 4- 1.17(b).

Mr. Strems did not comply with those requirements.

The Referee considered the conflicting legal opinions of two experts, (ROR pp. 79-106), as well as the conflicting legal arguments of the lawyers, and concluded that this transaction did not qualify as a sale for purposes of Rule 4-1.17.

The Referee found that it was a “mere changing of the guard” that “did not implicate Rule 4-1.17 or constitute a ‘sale of a law firm’ (sic) for purposes of Rule 4-1.17.”

(ROR p. 118)

This issue will be further addressed in the argument section because the facts are not really in dispute and the question is one of law for this Court to decide.

When Mr. Strems received the suspension order, his employees began working to obtain an accurate mailing list for the many clients.


By July 1, 2020, Mr. Strems had drafted a letter to send to the list of clients along with this Court’s order.

(TFB-Ex. C Contempt).

The one-page letter is an exhibit in evidence and in this brief’s appendix, but it is copied here as well:

Mr. Kalish testified that he had no role in creating this letter.


He explained that, while he did not think it was compelled by the rules, he probably would have added language about the possibility of a client changing firms.


He believed the clients “should know what’s going on.”


As he explained:

But the proper way would be that the clients would also assent to any arrangements of the various lawyer too, I believe.


Mr. Tozian testified that he did not believe his office drafted this letter, but he was relatively certain that he saw it before it went out.


He did not think the letter was an issue.

But, suffice it to say, the letter was not a plain, simple statement:

I regret to inform you that I was suspended from the practice of law on June 9, 2020. To comply with the Florida Supreme Court’s order, attached to this letter is a copy of that suspension order.

Although I can no longer represent you and will no longer be a member of this law firm after July 9, efforts are being taken so that the lawyers who work for this law firm can continue to represent you. They will contact you in the very near future. You, of course, also have the right to retain other counsel if you choose to do so.

The Bar maintains that Mr. Strems’ letter was not full compliance with this Court’s order and that it provided misleading and incomplete information to the clients in an effort to keep them with the reconstituted law firm that was obligated to make payments to Mr. Strems for a decade.

The Referee rejected the Bar’s position and ultimately is recommending that this Court find Mr. Strems not guilty of contempt and not guilty of the several violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct that are inherent in the conduct alleged in the petition for contempt.

The Referee recommends that each party bear their own costs.

Similar to the Reports of Referee in SC20-842 and SC20-1739, the Referee’s lengthy report in this case ends with a hypothetical recommendation for a penalty if this Court rejects the Referee’s recommendation of not guilty.

That recommendation is either an admonishment or a public reprimand, “concurrent with the previously recommended sanctions,” and the payment of costs.


The Bar maintained in the petition and at the hearing that Mr. Strems violated this order because he did not file a motion to withdraw in any of the cases filed by his law firm.


Instead, the reconstituted law firm filed a “notice of change of firm name and email addresses” that included the sentence:

“Any other Attorneys of Record should be removed as counsel of record on behalf of Plaintiff.”

(TFB-Ex. H Contempt).

Although this notice and the response of defense counsel resulted in stays and delays of litigation, these events occurred after Mr. Strems had withdrawn from the firm.

There is evidence of at least two cases that remained pending with Mr. Strems listed as counsel of record,

(T176, TFB-Ex-K & L Contempt).2

The Referee rejected the Bar’s position on this issue, and the Bar has chosen not to seek review of that decision.

It wishes to focus this review on the two issue that can arise in other emergency suspensions: whether such a transfer of a one-lawyer professional association is a sale for purposes of Rule 4.1-17, and whether the letter providing the suspension order complied with the suspension order and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

2 One case is Eduardo Mora v. United Property & Casualty Ins. Co., Case No. 17-010198 CA 13 in the 11th Circuit.

Judge Bokor held a hearing in that case on August 12, 2020.

The transcript on page 29 reflects that the judge was concerned that Mr. Strems was still counsel of record.

The transcript was used here in cross-examination, but is filed in SC20-806 as a portion of Composite Ex F.


Mr. Strems did not choose to build a law firm with a hierarchy of partners with years of experience working with younger associates on matters that had come into those partners due to their own professional experience.

He did not build a firm where clients often came to the firm because of the firm’s reputation but were then introduced to a partner who they agreed would represent them with the help of his or her associates and paralegals.

Instead, he built a one-man professional association with a maze of employees who handled matters for thousands of clients who had received an engagement letter signed by the only actual member of the law firm – Mr. Strems.

His was the only name in Strems Law Firm and his extensive marketing was based on that name. His clients were simply distributed among his pre-litigation teams and his litigation teams.

Thus, when he received his emergency suspension on June 9, 2020, he was faced with a serious problem. He had to leave the law firm immediately, no later than July 9. But the professional association was simply the corporate manifestation of Mr. Strems.

If he removed himself from the professional association, it ceased to exist.

He knew that if he sold his practice to another lawyer or law firm that Rule 4-1.17 would require that he notify his clients and give them the option to find another lawyer who was not burdened with the problems he had created for himself and his employees; a lawyer who actually had her practice organized so that she could talk to clients in person when needed.

That could dramatically reduce the value of the law practice he wanted to sell.

So instead of a direct sale, he accomplished precisely the same thing by issuing new stock for the three purchasers of his law practice, and then entering into a redemption agreement with the professional association so that the payments to him would be channeled through the law firm and not paid directly by the three lawyers.

By technically selling the stock in the professional association, the legal vessel that held the contracts with his clients, he claimed that the client’s professional relationship was unchanged with the professional association.

While the business relationship created by the thousands of contingency retainer agreements may have remained with the professional association, the clients ceased to have a professional relationship with Mr. Strems and that professional relationship was transferred to the three new members of the professional association.

The Florida Rules of Professional Conduct regulate the conduct of lawyers, not professional associations.

The redemption agreement may have been important to the IRS for tax purposes, but to fulfill his duties to his clients, he still needed to comply with Rule 4- 1.17.

But he did not comply with that rule.

Instead, in order to notify his clients of his suspension order, he sent them a letter, primarily in the third- person, telling them about the change in ownership and explaining that this change was why he would no longer be involved at the firm.

The Bar submits this letter is deceptive, a failure to communicate the information needed for informed consent, and a violation on the emergency suspension order.

Mr. Strems has argued that his actions are protected by advice of counsel. But this Court has clearly explained that this defense does not apply to compliance with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, as contrasted with some underlying legal issue with which a respondent is unversed.

In any event, the evidence in this record does not support this defense.

Because the Referee misunderstood the applicable law, this Court should reject the Referee’s recommendations and find Mr. Strems guilty of violating Rule 4-1.17, Rule 4-1-4, and Rule 4-8.4(c), and find him in contempt of the suspension order.

The sanction for these violations should be imposed with the other pending cases. Mr. Strems should be disbarred.

Two Untouchable Attorneys Who Stole Millions – Lovin’ Life in Florida


“This Court’s standard of review in a contempt case is the same as that applicable to attorney discipline cases in general.”

The Florida Bar v. Bitterman, 33 So. 3d 686, 687 (Fla. 2010).

1. Issues of Law.

This Court reviews issue of law de novo when the only disagreement is whether the material facts constitute unethical conduct.

The Florida Bar v. Brownstein, 953 So. 2d 502, 510 (Fla. 2007);

The Florida Bar v. Pape, 918 So. 2d 240, 243 (Fla. 2005).

2. Findings of Fact

As this Court explained in The Florida Bar v. Picon, 205 So. 3d 759, 764 (Fla. 2016):

“This Court’s review of a referee’s findings of fact is limited.

If a referee’s findings of fact are supported by competent, substantial evidence in the record, this Court will not reweigh the evidence and substitute its judgment for that of the referee.

The Florida Bar v. Frederick, 756 So. 2d 79, 86 (Fla. 2000).”

See also The Florida Bar v. Schwartz, 284 So. 3d 393, 396 (Fla. 2019);

The Florida Bar v. Parrish, 241 So. 3d 66, 72 (Fla. 2018);

The Florida Bar v. Vining, 721 So. 2d 1164, 1167 (Fla. 1998);

The Florida Bar v. Jordan, 705 So. 2d 1387, 1390 (Fla. 1998);

The Florida Bar v. Spann, 682 So. 2d 1070, 1073 (Fla. 1996).

3. Recommendation of Discipline

The Referee’s recommendation of discipline is subjected to greater review by this Court because of this Court’s ultimate responsibility to make that decision:

In reviewing a referee’s recommended discipline, this Court’s scope of review is broader than that afforded to the referee’s findings of fact because, ultimately, it is the Court’s responsibility to order the appropriate sanction.

See The Florida Bar v. Picon, 205 So. 3d 759, 765 (Fla. 2016) (citing The Florida Bar v. Anderson, 538 So. 2d 852, 854 (Fla. 1989)).

At the same time, this Court will generally not second-guess the referee’s recommended discipline, as long as it has a reasonable basis in existing case law and the standards.

See The Florida Bar v. Alters, 260 So. 3d 72, 83 (Fla. 2018);

The Florida Bar v. De La Torre, 994 So. 2d 1032 (Fla. 2008).

The Florida Bar v. Altman, 294 So. 3d 844, 847 (Fla. 2020).

It is also important to consider that this Court has given notice to the members of the Bar that it is moving toward harsher sanctions than in the past.

See The Florida Bar v. Rosenberg, 169 So. 3d 1155, 1162 (Fla. 2015).

In Rosenberg, this Court explained that since the decision in The Florida Bar v. Bloom, 632 So. 2d 1016 (Fla. 1994), the Court has moved toward imposing stricter sanctions for unethical and unprofessional conduct.

See also Altman at 847. As a result, case law prior to 2015 needs to be examined carefully to make certain that the application of sanctions in these earlier cases comports with current standards.



The complete transfer of ownership of Strems Law Firm from Mr. Strems to three other attorneys is a “sale of law practice” under Rule 4-1.17 of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct for which the clients were entitled to notice.

A. The central legal question within this issue, and the holding the Bar requests from this Court.

Until about forty years ago, a lawyer could sell the building from which she practiced, and the furniture and the law books connected to the practice, but the practice itself was regarded as a professional relationship that could not be sold.

In 1992, Florida adopted Rule 4-1.17, which was based on the recently developed ABA Model Rule 1.17.

See In re Amendment to Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 605 So. 2d 252, 253 (Fla. 1992). It allowed a lawyer to sell an entire practice to one lawyer.

The rule conditioned this new ability to sell a practice on requirements that the clients be notified and be given an opportunity to consent to the substitution of counsel or to terminate the representation.

Then, as now, the comments began with the explanation that “[t]he practice of law is a profession, not merely a business,” and “clients are not commodities that can be purchased and sold at will.”

In 2006, the rule was amended to permit a sale of the entire practice or an entire area of a practice to one or more lawyers.

See In re Amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 933 So. 2d 417, 457 (Fla. 2006).

Although in the first sentence of the rule, this Court made clear that the item sold is a “law practice,” and a not “law firm,” because either a “lawyer” or a “law firm” could sell a “law practice,” the rule has never defined exactly what a “sale” entails when one is selling a law practice. There is no case law defining “sale” in this context.

It is not a rare occurrence that a one-lawyer law practice is organized and doing business as a professional association or other form of legal association authorized to practice law.

If Lawyer A is practicing without the use of such a separate legal entity, and she wishes to sell either the entire practice or an area of practice to another lawyer or to some other professional association, there is no question that Rule 4-1.17 applies.

Lawyer A’s “practice” is to the largest extent a collection of existing relationships with clients and the goodwill created by past and present clients.

Before Lawyer A sells her practice to Lawyer B or to “Lawyer B, P.A,” she must give notice to her clients because the clients are not “commodities.”

But Mr. Strems successfully argued to the Referee that he did not sell a practice;

the corporation merely redeemed his stock in the corporation

Because the corporation did not cease to exist and it continued to own the legal contracts with the clients that created the business relationship, he claimed he had no duty to communicate with his clients to give them notice of the total 100% transfer in ownership of the professional association and their right to retain new counsel.

But it is the complete transfer of his professional relationships with his clients to the new owners of the professional association that invokes Rule 4-1.17 of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Bar submits that Rule 4-1.17(b) exists to protect the client’s rights.

It was not created by this Court to protect the commercial rights of a professional corporation.

The argument presented to, and accepted by, the Referee in this case would dramatically reduce the client’s right to be represented by a licensed lawyer of his or her choice, and to understand that he or she had that right.

No matter what legal entities are involved, when 100% of the control of a “legal practice” is transferred from one lawyer to another lawyer or group of lawyers, this is a sale of a “law practice” that invokes the right of the clients to be informed under Rule 4-1.17.

In this case, the Bar is asking this Court to hold that when a lawyer facing an emergency suspension transfers his entire practice for consideration to other lawyers, either directly from lawyer to lawyer, or indirectly through a transaction involving a transfer of a professional association that is used as the legal vessel containing the lawyer’s professional relationships with his clients, that transaction for consideration is a “sale of law practice,” requiring compliance with Rule 4-1.17(b).

B. Rule 4-1.17 governs the sale of a law practice, not the sale of a law firm.

Rule 4-1.17 plainly states that it applies to the sale of a law practice and not the sale of a law firm.

Its first three subsections state:

A lawyer or a law firm may sell or purchase a law practice, or an area of practice, including good will, provided that:

a) Sale of Practice or Area of Practice as an Entirety. The entire practice, or the entire area of practice, is sold to 1 or more lawyers or law firms authorized to practice law in Florida.

b) Notice to Clients. Written notice is served by certified mail, return receipt requested, on each of the seller’s clients of:

1) The proposed sale

2) The client’s right to retain counsel;


3) The fact that the client’s consent to the substitution of counsel will be presumed if the client does not object within 30 days after being served with notice.

The “practice” in this context includes the professional relationship with the clients and the good will that has been created over the life of the practice.

The purchaser may keep some or all of the employees of the predecessor lawyer and may be purchasing physical or computer files and programs that help service the clients.

But the “practice” has little value without the ongoing professional relationship with the clients.

The adoption of this rule ended the complete prohibition on selling a practice, but the compromise requires the lawyer benefiting from the sale to take very specific steps to protect the clients.

Admittedly, a practice is normally sold in a more direct sale of the business relationship than occurred in this case. But this is not a rule about the taxation of the sale or the basis for a new asset.

The clients had an established attorney-client relationship with Mr. Strems.

He was the only lawyer who was an actual member of the law firm, and he was also the lawyer signing the contracts and making first communication with the clients.

It was his credentials in all the advertising that gave them assurance (albeit inaccurately) that their claims would be carefully supervised by a very experienced lawyer.

It is lawyers who must obey the Rules of Professional Responsibility, not professional associations.

It is the lawyer who has skill as an advocate, not the professional association. The lawyer may delegate some of the work on a matter to an employed associate or even a paralegal, especially with the client’s knowledge and consent, but the lawyer is still the responsible supervisor.

The corporation cannot assume that professional function.

By the entire transfer of his practice to the three new owners, Mr. Strems was attempting to transfer that attorney-client relationship without providing the notice required by Rule 4-1.17(b).

He was not telling his clients that they had the right to find another lawyer under these circumstances.

C. The Referee misunderstood the concept of a sale of the legal practice, in part, because of the language of Mr. Strems’ standard “Contingency Fee Retainer Agreement.”

As Rule 4-5.8(a) explains, “the contract for legal services creates a legal relationship between the client and law firm and between the client and individual members of the law firm. . . .”

It further explains that “[n]othing in these rules creates or defines those relationships.”

In other words, the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct address the professional relationship between a lawyer and a client – not the business relationship between the client and the law firm.

Admittedly, there is some overlap between those relationships, especially in the area of reasonable fees. But the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct exist to protect clients and to protect the reputation of the profession of law and the courts that profession serves.

They are not trumped by the business interests of the lawyer or the law firm.

The standard “Contingency Fee Retainer Agreement” utilized by Mr. Strems was odd in a number of respects.3

But for purposes of this review, the major oddity is its use of the word “Attorney” as the shorthand reference for “The Strems Law Firm P.A.” (A. 4-7).

The contract’s heading does not reference the law firm, but the first line of the contract explains that the client is retaining and employing THE STREMS LAW FIRM, P.A. (hereinafter “Attorney”).

Mr. Strems signs the contract on the line for “Attorney” to sign.

The word “Attorney” occurs throughout the document.

This retainer agreement does not retain “Lawyer X and Lawyer X, P.A.’ In fact the body of the contract contains no reference to “lawyer” or to the word “Attorney” meaning anything except the professional association.

The contract authorizes “Attorney” to file a lawsuit for the client, but there is no discussion of what lawyer, other than Mr. Strems, will represent the client.

In this bulk practice, the client is represented by a pre-litigation team, and if necessary, by a subsequent litigation team. But the contract does not specify the team, much less the lawyers in the team.

The client is given no right to select a particular lawyer.

3 Different portions of the contact create issues addressed in SC20-842 and SC20-1739.

The required “Statement of Client’s Rights” is, of course, appended to the firm’s contract.

It discusses “lawyers.”

It explains in paragraph 3 that the client has the right to know about a “lawyer’s education, training and experience” before hiring a lawyer.

The contract has an auto-fill checkmark explaining that the client understands, but the only lawyer the client typically knows about when entering into the contract is Mr. Strems.

This contract is undoubtedly owned by the professional association.

As a business relationship, it presumably continues to be owned by the professional association when 100% of that entity is transferred from one lawyer to another lawyer or group of lawyers.

But calling the professional association “Attorney” in the contract does not make that association a “lawyer” for purposes of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

The question here is about the professional relationship between the client and the lawyer—and the duty to communicate with a client when the lawyer who signs the retainer agreement can no longer be in the professional relationship with his client because he has sold the law firm that owns the business relationship.

Mr Strems argued, and the Referee concluded, that the unchanged business relationship through the ownership of the contract by the professional association (when the entire practice is transferred from one lawyer to another group of lawyers) prevents the operation of Rule 4-1.17.

Respectfully, that is simply an error of law.

It conflates the business relationship with the professional relationship to the detriment of the client and to the detriment of the judicial system.

D. The fact that the lawyers purchasing the practice were three of the many lawyers employed by the professional association did not alter the requirements of Rule 4-1.17.

The three attorneys who owned all the stock, and thus the “practice” after the simultaneous closing were Orlando Romero, Hunter Patterson, and Christopher Narchet.


Mr. Romero has since died.


Mr. Narchet only became employed by the Strems Law Firm in its Coral Gables office in July 2017.


He never worked on one of the pre-litigation teams.


His first litigation job was as a member of one of the Strems litigation teams.


He was promoted to a team leader on one of the litigation teams prior to purchasing his interest in the law firm.


He explained that the three purchasers “decided that the best course of action for our clients was to obviously maintain the same representation for them.”


He further said:

“Obviously, the choice was left in their (the clients’) hands as well, you know, whether they wished to continue with our services as their counsel or not.”


But he does not claim they reached out to the thousands of clients to discuss this with them.

Thus, Mr. Strems did not provide notice to his clients under Rule 4- 1.17(b) of their rights, and the new owners unilaterally decided the best interest of the clients as well.

But the clients may not have wished to be represented by a lawyer with so little experience as Mr. Narchet.

They also may have discovered that the insurance company was not denying their claim and they could resolve it themselves without paying 25% of the undisputed amounts to the law firm.

Respectfully, keeping the clients with the new owners of the law firm was in the best interests of Mr. Strems and the new owners, but in light of the conditions that brought on the emergency suspension and the methods used to sign up some of the clients, the clients may very well have been better off to select different representation if that option had been presented to them with fair disclosure.

The Bar submits that there is no exception to Rule 4-1.17(b) when the sale is to three lawyers currently employed by the professional association.

Admittedly, at least a few of these clients were involved in litigation in which one of the new owners may have been their lead attorney of record.

But even then, the clients had entered into engagements to be represented by the Strems Law Firm when the only managing and supervising lawyer was Mr. Strems.

The many clients whose files were in pre-litigation would have had no prior contact with the new owners.

Whether the new attorneys in charge of managing and supervising the employees of the law firm had been employees of the firm or had come from outside the law firm, the clients still had a right to be told that they were no longer in privity with Mr. Strems’ law firm, but with a reconstituted law firm with entirely new owners.

Mr. Strems argued to the Referee that the position of the Bar would mean the Rule 4-1.17(b) would need to be invoked every time a partner left a law firm with multiple members.

That really is not a fair reading of the rule.

The rule covers the sale of an “entire practice” or an “entire area of practice.”

When new partners buy their shares in an existing law firm with multiple shareholders or old partners sell their shares, the event is normally not a purchase or sale of even an “area” of the practice.

The Bar is only arguing here that a sale occurs when there is a 100% change in the ownership of the professional association.

The disclosure requirements of Rule 4.1-17 are actually just an extension of the duty to communicate with your client under Rule 4.1-4.

In the remaining thirty days before Mr. Strems could no longer represent a client, he still had a duty to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

See Rule 4-1.4(b).

As we will see in the next issue, he did not accomplish that requirement.


Mr. Strems’ July 1, 2020, letter was not the notice required by Rule 4-1.17, but rather was a document providing misleading information for Mr. Strems’ benefit.

Mr. Strems did not begin sending out notices of his suspension in June to clients who had an immediate need for this information.

For example, the clients who had just sent in their signed retainers and had not been processed by the on-boarding team were not sent notice of his suspension prior to the completion of that process.

Instead, that team simply continued to send out Mr. Strems’ standard notice of representation to the insurance carriers.

(T803) (TFB-EX- Composite A Contempt) .

When he did provide notice to the clients, Mr. Strems did not send out a personal letter simply informing each client that he had been suspended by the Florida Supreme Court and providing a copy of the suspension order.

Instead, he mailed out a letter about “Your Insurance Claim” to “Dear Client.”

(TFB-Ex. C Contempt).

The letter begins with a one-sentence paragraph:

“Our work continues on your file, but we write this letter to advise of changes at the law firm and matters regarding me.”

Thus, although the letter is going to tell the client about his “matters,” it is carefully crafted as a letter from the whole law firm – from us, not from me.

The next paragraph explains that the “ownership” of the law firm is changing (even though this is not a sale).

It is changing by “advancing three of our present lawyers as shareholders.”

Mr. Strems explains that he will “no longer be the owner of the law firm or involved at the firm because of this change of ownership.”

But the truth is that he will no longer be involved because he has been suspended and he must divest himself of ownership in the firm because he has been suspended.

The next paragraph explains that the clients claim has been handled by a “specifically assigned attorney at the law firm and support staff,” which will not be affected by these changes.

That lawyer is not identified in the letter.

Mr. Strems claims that he had not been “directly responsible for your matter,” even though he had signed the contingency agreement with them and was the only shareholder in the firm.

He was not “directly” involved in the sense that he had delegated the matter to his employees, but he had been suspended because of the evidence that he had mismanaged those employees.

Despite the reasons for his suspension, he assures his clients that “the lawyers responsible for your matter will continue without any change to seek the best settlement or judgment for your case.”

(emphasis supplied).

Then, in the middle of the document in a paragraph containing one compound sentence, he states: “I will no longer be involved in the firm and I have been suspended from the practice of law, as per the attached Order.”

The next paragraph explains that the “new name of the firm will be The Property Advocates, P.A. and if you see that name on further papers we send to you there is no reason for your concern.”


Mr. Strems, of course is not part of that “we.”

Instead of telling the client that they may seek to retain other counsel in light of his suspension and the sale of the firm, he tells them “there is no reason for your concern.”

The next paragraph says:

“Again, we greatly value your confidence in us as your attorneys to complete your claim and get the best result for you possible for the damage to your house.”

This letter is signed only by Scot Strems, and it is not signed by him for Strems Law Firm, like the first letter he sent to the clients.


But he will not be completing their claims and negotiating the final settlement amounts.

Then the next two paragraphs state:

“We will stay in touch over the next few weeks and bring you up to date on our continuing efforts on your behalf.”

“Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have.”

Of course, Mr. Strems will not and cannot stay in touch with them.

And one of the reasons that Mr. Strems was suspended was because it was so difficult to get through to a lawyer if you contacted the office.

Ms. Mendizabal, who had worked with the firm since 2017 and was the managing attorney in the Miami office, explained that the firm had the same protocol for communicating with clients after this letter was sent out as before.

(T61, 64, 84).

They had a separate “team” that answered the telephones and a call center to handle overflows.


Mr. Strems knew when he signed this letter that the firm was not structured to allow these clients to call the unidentified lawyer “specifically assigned” to their case to obtain the information needed to make an informed decision about staying with the law firm.

The Bar maintains that, once Mr. Strems decided not to send a simple letter notifying his clients of his suspension, but rather decided to send a firm letter announcing the complete change in ownership of the law practice, he needed to comply with Rule 4-1.17(b).

He needed to tell his clients that they had a right to retain other counsel.

Instead, he used the letter as a marketing tool for the new owners to assure that they would be able to keep those clients and receive the contingency fees needed to fund his buy-out.

Once Mr. Strems decided to inform his clients of the status of representation, under Rule 4-1.4(a), entitled “Informing Client of Status of Representation,” he needed to provide the clients with accurate information needed for the client to make an informed decision.

Under Rule 4-1.4(b), he needed to “explain [the] matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

He knowingly sent out a letter that did not fulfill these requirements. He intentionally avoided providing a full disclosure for his own self-interest.

Instead of recognizing the problems within the firm and sharing with the clients that he had allowed the firm to grow too quickly, that the firm had problems communicating with its clients, and that it had difficulty timely complying with discovery rules and court orders—and perhaps explaining how the new owners planned to address these problems – he told them that things would go on “without any change” and that there was “no reason for your concern.”

Under Rule 4-8.4(c), a lawyer has an obligation not to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation.

This letter is not honest with his clients.

It misrepresented why he would no longer be the owner of the law firm or involved at the firm.

It misrepresented many things by omission that he needed to explain once he decided to send the content of this letter to his clients.

He did this in an effort to assure that the clients stayed with the new lawyers who now owned the law practice.

There is no factual dispute about the content of this letter or the facts surrounding the sending of this letter.

And Mr. Kalish and Mr. Tozian did not write this letter or provide any advance opinion that this was an appropriate letter – even assuming that “advice of counsel” has become a defense for this type of violation.

But the Referee nevertheless concluded that these facts did not violate these rules.

(ROR 149-150).

The Bar submits that the Referee made an error in law when she concluded that these facts violate none of the applicable rules.


“Advice of Counsel” should not be a defense when the advice concerns the Rules themselves and not some underlying area of law with which the lawyer is unfamiliar.

Mr. Strems repeatedly emphasized to the Referee that he had relied upon the advice of the two lawyers he hired to assist with the suspension order.

Just like he wished to blame his mismanagement on his associates in Case No. SC20-808, he seeks to shift responsibility for complying with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct to his lawyers.

He is seeking to expand the scope of this Court’s recent decision in The Florida Bar v. Herman, 297 So. 3d 516 (Fla. 2020), which recognized a very limited version of the advice of counsel defense.

In Herman, the issue concerned the truthfulness of Mr. Herman’s financial disclosures in his bankruptcy filings.

Mr. Herman was not a bankruptcy lawyer, and he had experienced bankruptcy counsel representing him in that proceeding.

His disclosures had been thoroughly discussed with his lawyer and the information Mr. Herman provided to his lawyer was accurate and sufficient for his lawyer to make a legal decision for his client.

The bankruptcy court found that the filings were so inaccurate as to warrant a denial of discharge, but this Court explained:

“To establish that Herman is guilty of misconduct, the Bar would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence not only that Herman’s bankruptcy disclosures were false or misleading, but also that Herman knew that they were false or misleading.”

Id. at 520.

This Court decided that it was the advice of his counsel about bankruptcy law that kept Mr. Herman from knowing his answers were misleading.

But in Herman this Court explained:

The reason an advice of counsel defense is usually unavailable in Bar discipline proceedings is that the Bar rules themselves charge Florida lawyers with knowledge of the rules and of “the standards of ethical and professional conduct prescribed by this court.”

R. Regulating Fla. Bar 3-4.1.

But here, Herman does not claim that he relied on the advice of counsel as to the meaning and requirements of any Bar rule.

Nor does this case have anything to do with Herman’s work as an attorney serving clients

Id. at 520.

Thus, Herman is not precedent for the proposition that Mr. Strems can hire lawyers to handle his suspension order and wash his hands of his own need to comply with the order and the rules.

Expanding Herman to this context would create the most slippery of slopes.

The responsibility for each lawyer in Florida to comply with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct must not be a delegable duty.

The Bar recognizes that reliance upon the formal opinion of a lawyer who specializes in Bar matters, after complete and accurate disclosure, might very well be a mitigating factor for conduct committed in reliance upon that opinion.

See The Florida Bar v. St. Louis, 967 So. 2d 108, 118 (Fla. 2007)

(“Thus, a defense based on advice of counsel is not available to respondents in Florida Bar discipline cases unless specifically provided for in a rule or considered as a matter in mitigation.”).

But the notion that a lawyer can be exempt from the rules because he may have discussed aspects of the rules with the counsel selling his practice to other lawyers by means of a sophisticated corporate transaction is a dangerous and unwarranted expansion of Herman.

Even if advice of counsel were expanded to these circumstances, Mr. Strems did not establish this defense.

The evidence related to this issue is summarized in the following paragraphs.

The Evidence.

Mr. Strems retained Mr. Tozian, an experienced lawyer who regularly defends lawyers in disciplinary proceedings, to assist him about a month before this Court entered the emergency suspension order.


Because Mr. Tozian was concerned about performing the transfer of the law firm correctly, Mr. Tozian advised Mr. Strems to retain a second lawyer, Mr. Kalish, who is a tax and transaction lawyer.


Mr. Tozian explained that he recommended this, in part, because had had a prior case where the Bar had questioned the method by which the transfer occurred.


Mr. Tozian contended in his testimony that Rule 4-1.17(b) did not apply in this case.


He did not recall if he specifically discussed Rule 4- 1.17(b) with Mr. Strems.


But he thought it was discussed that this was equivalent to the death of a lawyer.4

He explained:

“We looked at it as one person in the firm is gone, and the rest of the firm was going to soldier on.”

(T378). He did not see the transaction they created to be a “traditional sale.”

(T378). Instead, he explained:

“I mean, if you’ve got a firm with 30

4 The comments to Rule 4-1.17 explain that “[t]his rules applies, among other situations, to the sale of a law practice by representatives of a lawyer who is deceased.”

people and one person is out of the mix, whether they die or they’re suspended or they decide that selling shoes at Nordstrom’s would be a better vocation, it doesn’t really matter how the person left the firm.”


He did not seem to take into consideration that only one lawyer in this case owned the firm.

He saw the transaction as “a much more efficient way to divest Mr. Strems of his interest – and , you know, a client can fire you at any time.”


He personally thought the only time a lawyer has a duty to disclose to a client that they have the right to retain another lawyer was when the client was “unhappy with the decision-making” or “unhappy with the results.”


On redirect, in a series of leading questions, Mr. Tozian testified that he approved of the transaction as fashioned by Mr. Kalish “[t]o the extent that I understood it and to the extent to which the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar applied.”


He confirmed that he had advised Mr. Strems that “the notification was done in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order.”


Mr. William Kalish testified that he was retained by Mr. Strems and the Strems Law Firm in June 2020.


One of his roles was to serve as the receiver for the trust account issues.


That role is not significant to this review.

He also provided advice to Mr. Strems and Strems Law Firm concerning compliance with the suspension order.


The three employed attorneys who purchased the stock for the reconstituted law firm were not represented by him.


He has experience providing tax and transactional advice to clients, especially lawyers and law firms.


He was the main person involved in deciding to use the device of the redemption agreement and the newly issued stock for this transfer because, in his opinion, it avoided issues of quantum meruit if a new law firm took over from Strems Law Firm.


Even though Mr. Strems claimed not to have been directly involved in these cases, Mr. Kalish was concerned that other approaches would involve 7500 quantum meruit decisions, which the redemption agreement avoided by buying Mr. Strems’ stock for a fair market value of

(T419, 426-427).

He testified that Mr. Strems was following his advice.


In his opinion, every part of his advice to Mr. Strems was in the best interests of the clients.


He understood that Rule 4-1.17 would require giving notice to the clients that they were free to get another lawyer, but he believed “that could cause a disruption.”


He believed his solution to the transfer of ownership was not a “sale” and that it did not require compliance with Rule 4-1.17.


He reasoned that, as a matter of corporate law, the law firm was not sold;

it was renamed and the stockholders were traded out.

(T422- 424).

He opined that a redemption was not a sale.


His opinion appears to be influenced by his training as a tax lawyer, and he was not asked whether the transaction was a sale of a “law practice” for purposes of considering the interests of the clients.


In answer to a question by the Referee, he admitted that “it is conceivable if read as a sale, that it would be governed by Rule 1.17.”


But he seemed to believe, if that were true, it would apply every time that Mr. Strems hired a new lawyer as an employee.


Mr. Kalish reasoned that, if the sale of stock and the redemption were simultaneous, there was no disruption in the professional association, and since the clients probably regarded the employed lawyer who was currently the team leader assigned to their case as their lawyer, it was not a sale that required notice to the clients of their right to retain alternate counsel.

(428- 429).

He seemed to equate this with a situation where existing shareholders invite a practicing lawyer to join the firm.


He read from his affidavit explaining that Rule 4-1.17 did not apply because this did not involve “two separate entities engaged in a transfer of clients.”

(T452, R-Ex. 12).

As explained earlier in the Statement of Facts, Mr. Kalish testified that he had no role in creating the July 1 letter.


He explained that, while he did not think it was compelled by the rules, he probably would have added language about the possibility of changing firms.


He believed the clients “should know what’s going on.”


As he explained:

But the proper way would be that the clients would also assent to any arrangements of the various lawyer too, I believe.

The Law

It is clear that Mr. Strems never asked either lawyer for a formal opinion on this. Mr. Tozian did not fully appreciate the fact that Mr. Strems was the only member of the professional association, and he equated this situation with a more typical law firm with multiple partners or shareholders.

Mr. Kalish would have advised Mr. Strems to explain the arrangement to the clients in the July 1 letter, if asked.

Thus, the evidence on advice of counsel is not a basis to find that Mr. Strems did not violate the specific rules of conduct and the suspension order in this proceeding.

The evidence may not even support a mitigating factor when determining the sanction.

A Comment on the two experts

It is not uncommon in Bar proceedings for lawyers to provide expert testimony that includes explanations of some area of specialized law.

For example, in the Herman case both sides presented experts on bankruptcy law.

This type of testimony would usually be inadmissible under the formal rules of evidence in a typical trial.

See Lee Cnty. v. Barnett Banks, Inc., 711 So. 2d 34, 34 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997)

(“Expert testimony is not admissible concerning a question of law. Statutory construction is a legal determination to be made by the trial judge, with the assistance of counsels’ legal arguments, not by way of ‘expert opinion.’”).

But in this case, Mr. Strems retained Professor Timothy P. Chinaris as an expert on the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, and the Bar responded by hiring Professor Anthony Alfieri.

(T575-76, 722).

Predictably, Professor Chinaris provided expert opinions on these rules that helped Mr. Strems, and Professor Alfieri provided opinions that helped the Bar.

Professor Chinaris believed that Rule 4-1.17 applied only to transfers for consideration to lawyers “outside” the firm, and he concluded that the three employed associates were inside the firm such that a 100% transfer to them did not invoke the rule.

(R-Ex-9, p. 4).

He supported his interpretation not with the text of the rule, but with a comment discussing the fact that attorney-client privilege did not bar preliminary discussions involved in such a transaction with an outside lawyer.

The Referee adopted this legal reasoning.

(ROR p.112-114).

But the comment does not suggest that the rule applies only when there might be an attorney-client privilege issue.

Instead, the rule is drafted to protect the client and to make sure the client is not treated like a “commodity.”

Professor Chinaris’s opinion as a forensic expert does not seem to give the clients their due.

Professor Alfieri had a longer report and a longer explanation as to why he believed that Rule 4-1.17 did apply in this context.

(TFB-Ex. 1 p. 27).

But the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct are simply a subset of rules of law.

Lawyers are called upon to read them carefully and obey them.

This Court reviews the rules de novo to determine whether they apply to a set of facts or not.

See The Florida Bar v. Brownstein, 953 So. 2d 502, 510 (Fla. 2007).

The undersigned frankly questions whether this “testimony” by experts, not addressing issues of fact, but rather addressing legal conclusions that are reviewed de novo by this Court, is a proper subject for testimony.

It reads more like closing arguments from the witness stand than evidence.

It might be better for this Court simply to indicate that such testimony is not a necessary or proper part of a disciplinary proceeding.


Mr. Strems should be found guilty of contempt and of violations of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

This Court has inherent contempt powers that, in this context, are expressly incorporated into the general rules of procedure for disciplinary proceedings.

See The Florida Bar v. Ross, 732 So. 2d 1037, 1041 (Fla. 1998); Rule 3-7.11(f).

The Bar recognizes that a finding of guilt in this contempt proceeding requires proof that Mr. Strems “intentionally and willfully” violated the terms of the order.

See The Florida Bar v. Forrester, 916 So.2d 647, 650 (Fla. 2005).

A violation does not require Mr. Strems to admit his guilt, and it can be established by circumstantial evidence.

Id. at 652.

The standard emergency suspension order entered by this Court on June 9, 2020, required Mr. Strems “to immediately furnish a copy of Respondent’s suspension order to all clients.”

The Referee found that the delay until July 1, 2020, to send out a copy of the order was not such a long delay as to violate the requirement of immediacy, and the Bar is not challenging that ruling in this review.

The Referee seemed to believe that the actual content of Mr. Strems’ letter sending a copy of suspension order to his clients would be of no concern to this Court so long as it attached a copy of his suspension order.

But the Bar submits that any licensed lawyer would know that an emergency suspension order is an exceptional and very serious matter.

The order to furnish a copy of the suspension order to clients does not mandate the precise method by which the order is delivered, but any lawyer would know that it must be provided in a manner that is not deceptive.

Given the requirements of Rule 4-1.4 that a lawyer “shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation,” the requirement to furnish a copy of the suspension order to a client normally includes a concomitant duty to accurately explain to the client the legal effect of this order.

But Mr. Strems sandwiched his statement revealing his suspension to his clients in the middle of a marketing letter for the reconstituted law firm, written mostly in the third person, assuring them that another lawyer would continue for them ”without any change.”

He told his clients they had no reason for concern, despite the concerns that caused this Court to enter the emergency suspension.

He intermingled the notice of his suspension with the law firm’s explanation, in the third person, of the total transfer of ownership to three unnamed attorneys.

The Bar submits that the undisputed facts in this case demonstrate an intentional and willful disregard for this Court’s order to provide the order to the client.

That intentional disregard was designed to protect Mr. Strems’ buy-out.

Even if this Court concludes that the conduct is not violative of its order, as explained earlier, the evidence clearly demonstrates a violation of Rule 4-1.4 (communication), Rule 4-1.17(b) (failure to provide the proper notice of the sale), and Rule 4-8.4(c) (misrepresentation to client).

The Petition expressly discussed the violation of Rule 4-1.17.

Rule 4-1.4 and Rule 4-8.4 were not expressly discussed in the petition.

But the failures to communicate with the clients and the misrepresentations to the client were directly related to what was and was not communicated to clients as a result of the suspension order.

They were discussed in Professor Alfieri’s report, which was disclosed prior to the final hearing.

(TFB-Ex. A).

Professor Chinaris discussed both of these violations in his direct examination prior to Professor Alfieri’s testimony.

(T629-631, 642-643).

Thus, the two additional violations were “within the scope of the conduct and rule violations specifically charged.”

The Florida Bar v. Fredericks, 731 So. 2d 1249, 1254 (Fla. 1999).

For purposes of due process, Mr. Strems had notice and had an opportunity to be heard. Paraphrasing Fredericks, “because [Mr. Strems] was made aware of the conduct alleged by the Bar to be unethical and had the opportunity to be heard as to this conduct, there was no violation of due process.”

Id. at 1254.

The Referee’s recommendations on these violations were based primarily on her legal determination that the transaction was not a sale.

The facts of what was and was not communicated to the clients in the letter are undisputed.

The Bar submits that the letter delivering the suspension order contained misrepresentations designed to secure a client base for the reconstituted law firm, and it failed to communicate both the right to retain other counsel and the circumstances that might warrant the client to consider that option.

Mr. Strems should be found guilty of these three violations.


The Court should either impose the sanction in this case in conjunction with Case No. SC20-806, Case No. SC20-842, and Case No. SC20-1739, or the issue of the proper sanction should be remanded to the Referee for consideration following this Court’s determination of guilt.

The Referee is recommending that the sanction in this case be “concurrent” with the sanction in the other pending cases.

The Bar agrees with this recommendation to the extent that it suggests that this Court should simply impose a single sanction for the conduct in all three cases.

See The Florida Bar v. Inglis, 660 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1995);

The Florida Bar v. Greenspahn, 396 So. 2d 182, 183 (Fla. 1981)

(“Under the peculiar facts of this matter, however, we determine the appropriate discipline from the totality of the conduct as though all of the charges had been presented to us in one proceeding.”).

The Bar is already recommending disbarment in those three cases. These violations would add incrementally to the sanction for those cases.

The four proceedings collectively demonstrate a lawyer who devised improper methods to obtain homeowners’ signatures on 25% contingency fee contracts without any direct discussions with the client about a need for representation and often before the homeowners had an objective reason to believe they needed an attorney to handle their insurance claims.

Then he created a law firm structure that did not adequately communicate with the clients and could not handle the onslaught of lawsuits that he filed, leading to sanctions and Kozel orders against the lawyers he employed.

When it came time for settlement, relying on the improper language of his contract, he negotiated global settlements that maximized his payment, and minimized the clients’ returns.

And when this Court entered its emergency suspension, rather than sending his clients a straight-forward letter explaining his suspension, he sent a letter from the law firm explaining that there should be no reason for them to be concerned, and that he would no longer be involved at the firm because other lawyers had become its shareholders.

He did not tell the clients the whole story or tell them they had a right to retain new counsel.

He did not tell them this information because then there could be insufficient money to pay his buy-out from the firm.

Mr. Strems’ numerous, strategic violations of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct warrant permanent disbarment.

However, if the Court decides that a separate sanction is appropriate in this case, this Court should not rely upon the Referee’s hypothetical evaluation and should remand for a proper sanction hearing.

The Bar submits that there is a dishonest or selfish motive associated with the misconduct in this proceeding that would warrant more than a public reprimand – especially if the three pending cases were treated as prior disciplinary offenses.

See §3.2(b) (1) & (2), Florida’s Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions;

The Florida Bar v. Patterson, SC19-2070, 2021 WL 5832861, at *6 (Fla. 2021) (overlapping prior discipline);

The Florida Bar v. Koepke, 327 So.3d 788, 789 (Fla. 2021) (disbarment for first disciplinary violation).


This Court should reject the Referee’s recommendation for findings of not guilty on the charge of contempt for the reasons explained in this brief.

It should find Mr. Strems guilty of contempt, as well as guilty of violations of Rules 4-1.4, 4-1.17, and 4-8.4(c).

It should impose a combined sanction in this proceeding and the three pending proceedings of permanent disbarment.

It should award the Bar its costs.

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Chris W. Altenbernd
Chris W. Altenbernd, Esq.
Florida Bar No: 197394
501 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1700
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 221-1500; Fax No: (813) 222-3066

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When the World’s Bankers and Governments Are Behavin’ Like Thieves and Criminals, It Really Is Time to Object, Vociferously

The appalling greed and corruption is playing out live since 2008 and without any accountability to the people. One Percenters are completely immune and laughing At You.



Ukrainian who made appearance in Trump impeachment saga accused by U.S. of stealing, laundering billions

AUG 6, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The Justice Department on Thursday accused a Ukrainian oligarch who has been considered an ally of Ukraine’s president of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned, then using a vast array of companies to launder that money in the United States and all over the world.

In a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to seize commercial properties in Kentucky and Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner, Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole so much from PrivatBank that Ukraine’s national bank had to give the institution a $5.5 billion bailout “to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”

Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, has ties to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he played a role in the events that led to President Trump’s impeachment last year. He made a fortune in the rough-and-tumble capitalism that swept Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse, amassing assets including airlines and financial institutions, and created a larger-than-life image for himself, going by the nickname “Benya,” and keeping a shark aquarium in his office.

Kolomoisky and Boholiubov were the two major owners of PrivatBank before it was nationalized in response to the fraud, the Justice Department said, and the men basically used it as a personal account to build a business empire in the United States. They requested money from PrivatBank — which they always received because they were owners — then moved the funds through a network of companies to “thoroughly disguise their nature, source, ownership, and control,” the Justice Department alleged.

Experts have expressed increasing concern that U.S. real estate — including factories and facilities important to American industry — has become a magnet for foreign money, including proceeds of criminal activities abroad. Among Kolomoisky’s and Boholiubov’s purchases were more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio; steel plants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan; a cellphone manufacturing plant in Illinois; and commercial real estate in Texas, the Justice Department alleged. The forfeiture complaints sought to seize a roughly 19.5-acre office park in Dallas and the PNC Plaza building in Louisville.

Michael J. Sullivan, a lawyer for Kolomoisky, said in an email: “Mr. Kolomoisky emphatically denies the allegations in the complaints filed by the Department of Justice.” The allegations, which are not criminal charges, are similar to those in a lawsuit filed by the bank in a Delaware court. A lawyer for Boholiubov did not reply to an email seeking comment.

In a statement written in Russian, Kolomoisky said all the money used to purchase the U.S. properties was his own, received through a deal made with a mining company in 2007 and 2008 and from other businesses that banked with Privatbank.

Kolomoisky also has long been facing a criminal probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland for possible money laundering. As a part of that case, the FBI raided the office of Optima Management Group in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday, as well as an Optima office in the Southeast Financial Center building in Miami.

In court documents, the Justice Department alleged Thursday that two Miami-based business associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov’s — Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber — helped acquire and manage the oligarchs’ holdings in the United States, which often bear some version of the name “Optima.” Optima Ventures at one point became the “largest holder of commercial real estate in Cleveland,” using stolen funds to buy major downtown office buildings and a hotel, the Justice Department alleged.

Last year, Marc Kasowitz, a New York lawyer who also represents Trump, signed on to represent Kolomoisky and Boholiubov in the Delaware case. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Under Ukraine’s last president, Petro Poroshenko, the government nationalized Privatbank, alleging that Kolomoisky and one of his business partners had defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. Kolomoisky denied those charges but decamped from Kyiv to Israel, where he also holds citizenship. He retained political power in Ukraine through his business holdings, which include a major Ukrainian television station.

Kolomoisky is seen as an ally to Zelensky, who was an actor before his election, starring in a comedy show that aired on Kolomoisky’s network. Zelensky’s election was widely seen as a boon for Kolomoisky, particularly after the new president made Kolomoisky’s personal lawyer the head of his administration. Some in the United States were suspicious of Zelensky’s ties to the mogul, thinking the connection ran counter to Zelensky’s promises to pursue an anti-corruption and reformist agenda.

Since then, however, Zelensky has not supported returning control of Privatbank to the oligarch, and he fired that top aide. Still, Kolomoisky has been comfortable enough with Ukraine’s current leadership that he returned from a self-imposed exile in Tel Aviv and is again based in Kyiv, where he maintains connections to members of the presidential administration.

In spring 2019, when Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani embarked on a mission to press Zelensky to assist Trump by opening politically charged investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Giuliani’s associates met with Kolomoisky to request that Giuliani get a sit-down with the rising Ukrainian politician.

Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Kolomoisky in April 2019 in Tel Aviv, and, by all accounts, the meeting did not go well.

Giuliani associates claimed to have sway with both foreign billionaires and Trump administration officials

After the meeting, the two ­Florida-based business executives accused Kolomoisky of physically threatening them and filed a lawsuit against him in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman, who assisted Giuliani in his Ukraine project, were charged in the United States with campaign finance violations last year. They have denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani has said he provided legal advice to Parnas and Fruman in their fight against Kolomoisky. He also tweeted repeatedly about his displeasure with Kolomoisky in May 2019 just as he was pressuring Zelensky to assist Trump with a Biden investigation. At one point, Giuliani complained that Zelensky was being advised by “Kolomoisky’s representatives and enemies of President Trump.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Kolomoisky has told The Post that during the Tel Aviv meeting, Parnas and Fruman claimed that they could get top U.S. officials, including Vice President Pence and then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to travel to Ukraine around the time of Zelensky’s May 2019 inauguration — if Kolomoisky paid them several hundred thousand dollars. Kolomoisky did not pay the money, instead throwing the two men out of his office, his lawyer has said.

The attorney, Bruce Marks, told The Post that Kolomoisky had predicted to friends at the time: “This is going to end up in a bad scandal.”

Ukraine arrests ex-PrivatBank official as U.S. prioritizes criminal probe of former owners

FEB 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has arrested the former deputy chairman of a Ukrainian bank at the heart of an FBI criminal investigation as he attempted to fly abroad in the latest sign Kyiv is taking steps to tackle corruption and lawlessness.

Volodymyr Yatsenko was detained at Boryspil Airport in Kyiv on February 22 after investigators forced the pilot of the private jet he was traveling on to land, the bureau announced in a tweet.

Mr. Yatsenko, who was on his way to Vienna after reportedly being tipped off about his arrest, was charged with the embezzlement of funds at PrivatBank, once the nation’s largest lender.

More arrests of management could follow, the Kyiv Post reported.

The FBI is investigating the two owners of PrivatBank – Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov – in connection with accusations that more than $5 billion was stolen from the lender through fraudulent loans and that the money was then laundered.

In a move that made international headlines, Ukraine was forced to nationalize PrivatBank in 2016 and pump more than $5 billion into the lender in order to stave off its bankruptcy.

The U.S. accuses Messrs. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov of using some of the laundered proceeds to buy assets in the U. S., ranging from metals companies to commercial properties, with the help of two American associates based in Miami.

The Justice Department last year filed three civil forfeiture lawsuits in a Florida court against a U.S. real estate holding controlled by the two tycoons and run by the associates.

However, a judge agreed last week with a Justice Department request to temporarily suspend the civil forfeiture proceedings amid concerns it could harm the criminal investigation against the Ukrainian businessmen and their two American partners.

“Allowing [the tycoons] to conduct discovery would expose the identities of witnesses who have provided and will provide information and testimony in both the civil forfeiture actions and the criminal investigation,” the Justice Department said in its February 19 filing.

“If that occurs, the confidential informants may cease providing information, and, to the extent they are not reachable through process in the United States, they may make themselves unavailable for future testimony. Potential sources of information who have not yet been interviewed by the government would likely be deterred from coming forward” the Justice Department said in its filing.

The tycoons deny the accusations and neither Ukraine nor the United States has filed criminal charges against them.

Mr. Kolomoisky is one of the most influential tycoons in Ukraine and the U.S. government’s investigation into his activities is being closely followed.

The billionaire owns key media, energy, and metals assets and is believed to have outsized influence over the administration of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr. Kolomoisky’s TV stations backed Mr. Zelenskyy’s successful presidential bid.

The U.S., one of Ukraine’s biggest backers financially and militarily, has repeatedly expressed concern about oligarchic influence over the nation’s government and economy.

Washington has also complained about the lack of investigations into corrupt tycoons and officials and has tied some aid to improvements in judicial reform.

The arrest of Mr. Yatsenko, who was flying on a private plane owned by Mr. Kolomoisky, is the latest in a series of moves by Kyiv to tackle cases that resonate with the U.S.

Mr. Zelenskyy last week approved sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, a tycoon and lawmaker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Medvedchuk was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014 for undermining democracy in Ukraine.

On February 2, Mr. Zelenskyy sanctioned three television stations believed to be owned by Mr. Medvedchuk. In late January he announced an investigation into Ukrainian individuals accused of interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

The moves come after President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20. Mr. Biden knows Ukraine well, having served as the point man to Kyiv while serving as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Political analysts say Mr. Zelenskyy is seeking to win over the Biden administration after a difficult relationship with the Trump administration caused by the 2019 impeachment investigation.


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