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What’s Your Day Job Judge Marni Bryson is Asked While Under Judicial Investigation

Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson was charged in April with violating judicial canons that require judges to work fulltime.

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Accusations against judge of sexting, nude photos, burglary emerge in lawsuit

JUL 1, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: SEP 5, 2021

When Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson was charged in April with violating judicial canons that require judges to work fulltime, it wasn’t her first brush with controversy.

Almost exactly two years earlier, she filed a $10 million lawsuit against politically powerful Fort Lauderdale lawyer William Scherer, accusing him of trying to extort her by threatening to release nude photos of her.

The cases threaten both Bryson’s personal and professional life along with the reputations of Scherer and others who have been dragged into the salacious legal fray.

While one dispute played out quietly as judicial watchdogs engaged in behind-the-scenes talks with unnamed sources about Bryson’s attendance record, the other exploded into public view.

Detailed in court records, it exposes the personal lives of a prominent Broward County land-use attorney, her ex-husband, a well-known political consultant who was married to Bryson, and, of course, Bryson herself.

But, despite the sordid allegations of sexting or less-scintillating accusations that she failed to show up for work, the 47-year-old two-term jurist shows no sign of backing down from the legal fights against powerful people and institutions.

Already, she has won key battles.

A Treasure Coast circuit judge, who is presiding over the extortion case after Palm Beach County judges recused themselves, ruled Bryson can seek punitive damages against Scherer on her claims of intentional affliction of emotional distress. The decision is being appealed.

Further, Bryson persuaded attorney Mayanne Downs, a member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, to recuse herself because she is close friends with Chief Palm Beach County Judge Krista Marx.

In court papers, Bryson’s attorney said he plans to call Marx’s credibility into question when the six-member panel meets in November to weigh allegations that Bryson “failed to devote full time and attention to your judicial duties” from 2016 through 2019. Bryson is also accused of failing to report her absences to Marx.

CHIEF CIRCUIT JUDGE KRISTA MARX

Still, despite the recent wins, attorneys representing Scherer and the JQC claim that Bryson is waging quixotic battles.

The JQC’s case doesn’t depend on Marx’s testimony, attorney Henry M. Coxe III said in court papers filed on behalf of the agency that reviews complaints against state judges.

Data and other witnesses will show that Bryson “was often absent from her designated court facility,” he wrote.

‘Even John Grisham’s best work of fiction’

Likewise, attorney Javier Lopez, who represents Scherer, said Bryson’s case is doomed.

“What has become apparent is that Ms. Bryson seems to have a tortured relationship with the truth,” he said. “Her complaint against Mr. Scherer is something that even John Grisham’s best work of fiction would have a hard time competing with.”

Attorney Paul Turner, who represents Bryson, said such remarks are typical of Scherer’s effort to vilify his client, who served as an assistant state attorney general, an assistant public defender and was in private practice before being first elected in 2010.

“Everything Judge Bryson has said is true and the defendants can’t get around it,” he said in a statement.

“They don’t like the truth, they don’t like the facts, they don’t like that they are on the hook for punitive damages now, and they don’t like that they couldn’t scare my client into remaining silent.”

Like the focus on the nude photos, the verbal assaults are an attempt to taint Bryson and obscure her motives, he said.

“They continually attack her to draw attention away from what she really is, a mother who was protecting her child,” Turner said.

It all started with a child-visitation dispute

By any measure, the underlying allegations in the lawsuit could be plucked from a cheesy bestseller or a country song.

The dispute began with allegations of infidelity, which led to divorce, acrimony, jealousy and despair.

BLAKE MACDIARMID (CENTER RIGHT)

From there, it spun out of control.

Concerned that her ex-husband, Blake MacDiarmid, hadn’t visited their infant son for months, Bryson in 2015 headed back to court to try to change their child-sharing agreement.

Bryson had been married to MacDiarmid less than a year and had just given birth when the campaign consultant began staying out late at night, claiming he was meeting with candidates, she claims.

After the 2014 divorce, he stopped picking up their son for visitation. Bryson said she wanted to change the agreement so she could limit his access to his child, who wouldn’t recognize his father and would be traumatized if he took him.

Subpoena for her ex-husband’s girlfriend?

To prove MacDiarmid’s absences, Bryson said she wanted to subpoena his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Toothaker, a Democratic fundraiser and legal adviser who was flirting with a congressional bid.

The Fort Lauderdale land use and government relations attorney could testify that MacDiarmid was with her when he was supposed to be taking care of his son, Bryson said.

William Scherer was once an attorney for former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

When she received a notice of the subpoena, Toothaker went to Scherer, who specializes in complex business litigation, represented George Bush in his 2000 recount fight and is considered a Republican kingmaker.

Claiming she feared Bryson, Toothaker asked Scherer to block the subpoena and any other legal action Bryson was planning.

Scherer claims his investigation led him to believe that Toothaker and her estranged husband and Bryson and her ex-husband were in a twisted “love rectangle.”

He said he “was provided” nude photos Bryson allegedly sent to Toothaker’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Peter Kemp, and text messages he believed Bryson sent MacDiarmid, threatening to kill Toothaker.

He also had a copy of a report Toothaker filed with Fort Lauderdale police, claiming Bryson had broken into her house.

There also was an anonymous letter that Toothaker believed Bryson sent to her law partners, Broward County commissioners and officials at her private club. The letter detailed her affair with MacDiarmid and other indiscretions that the letter writer said would soon be released to the media.

With that information in hand, Scherer said, he called West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola for a chat. He said he thought Scarola, who he’d known for years, represented Bryson.

Scherer said his purpose was pure.

“I said it would be embarrassing to all four of them, both husbands and both wives, because I described it to him as a very messy, nasty two-year … love rectangle of sorts,” Scherer said during a deposition.

“I wasn’t going to Mr. Scarola and blaming his client any more than I was trying to exonerate mine,” he continued. “I was trying to get them to stand down and that was the purpose of the meeting with Mr. Scarola.”

But, when Scarola told Bryson about what Scherer said at the meeting, she didn’t believe Scherer was trying to stop four people from hurting each other.

STEPHANIE TOOTHAKER

‘Faced with being publicly humiliated’

Knowing she was facing a re-election campaign, Scherer was threatening to release the photo and the police report if she didn’t drop her plans to use Toothaker to protect her young son, Bryson said.

“I was faced with being publicly humiliated by him and this purported photo as well as an allegation of a burglary I knew nothing about,” she said during a deposition. “I was in the middle of an election where any of this news would have not only been a local media sensation but perhaps a national media sensation.”

She said the only nude photo she sent to any man was to MacDiarmid when she was taking pictures to chronicle her pregnancy.

When Lopez pointed out that Kemp had testified that she texted him the photo and he had shared it with Toothaker, Bryson’s response was unequivocal.

“He’s lying,” she said.

Stephanie Toothaker, a lawyer with the Fort Lauderdale firm Tripp Scott, considered a run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2016.

She said he was also lying when he testified that she danced topless when she called him on a video chat. While he also received a photo of a vagina he shared with Toothaker, he said he didn’t believe it came from Bryson who he texted with regularly in 2014.

Bryson further denied that she ever threatened Toothaker. A text message that Lopez claims she sent to MacDiarmid included a reference to a violent rap song that was labeled “for your GF.”

“I will kill her. And her Falcon nose,” it continued.

Bryson said she didn’t remember sending the text to MacDiarmid and her ex-husband’s claims that she did were dubious at best.

“Just because Blake says it’s from me doesn’t mean it’s from me,” she said. “As we know, Blake’s had some problems in the past as far as being truthful.”

Still, Bryson acknowledged, she may have made some disparaging remarks about Toothaker.

“I don’t recall saying that she had a falcon nose,” she said during a deposition. “But I’m sure I said many mean things about her at that period of time. I was very angry.”

Attorney didn’t think it was a threat

But, Lopez said, a bigger problem for Bryson is that Scarola doesn’t share her view of the purpose of Scherer’s visit.

During the roughly half-hour meeting at his West Palm Beach office, Scarola said he didn’t believe Scherer was threatening Bryson.

“We did not talk about matters that I personally viewed as an extortion attempt,” Scarola said in a signed affidavit. “The thrust of the conversation was that this situation was messy and would not reflect well on anyone involved.”

Scherer never threatened to release the nude photos or any of the other documents he had gathered against Bryson, Scarola said.

Instead, Scherer explained that he believed the release of the damaging information was inevitable if Bryson pursued plans to have Toothaker testify in the custody dispute. Scherer also mentioned the impact that could have on Bryson’s judicial career, Scarola said.

But, Scarola insisted, he didn’t think Scherer was trying to use him to threaten Bryson. Instead, Scarola said he viewed it as an opportunity to help Bryson, whom he’d supported in her judicial campaigns.

“The only remorse I felt was that Judge Bryson was having to deal with the emotional trauma of protecting herself and her child in a legal battle that seemed to be devolving at the hands of her former husband into increasingly lower levels of nastiness,” he said. “Mr. Scherer did not threaten to obstruct Judge Bryson’s pending litigation.”

While questioning Bryson, Lopez insisted that Scarola’s statement destroys the crux of her case against Scherer. The only person who could testify that Scherer threatened Bryson is Scarola, who claims it didn’t happen, he said.

Bryson disagreed. “It’s my testimony as to what (Scarola) said to me, what was relayed to me, what I took away from that conversation,” she said. “I’m not calling him a liar as to his personal recollection.

“What he writes is his personal opinion or personal memory of something,” she continued. “My memory contradicts him. I’m not calling him a liar. Okay?”

The bigger question, her attorneys said, is why Scherer went to Scarola to talk about Bryson’s plan to call Toothaker to testify in the custody dispute instead of talking to the divorce lawyer who was representing her.

Scherer said he contacted Scarola because he understood the lawyer he had known for years was representing Bryson in a separate lawsuit he was told she planned to file against Toothaker.

WILLIAM SCHERER

Scherer acknowledged that Scarola told him he wasn’t representing Bryson and knew nothing about her ongoing domestic strife. But, Scherer said, he also understood Scarola had represented Bryson before.

“I felt that his involvement would help resolve what I believed to be a very nasty dispute that ought to be resolved,” Scherer said.

In court papers, Bryson’s attorneys said Scherer was obligated to talk to Bryson’s divorce lawyer, who was handling the custody dispute.

When the case goes to trial, they said, they plan to call an expert witness to testify that Scherer’s decision to sidestep Bryson’s divorce lawyer was a violation of professional rules of conduct.

Scherer’s attorney said they will call their own expert who will testify that he did the right thing.

For his part, Scherer said his plan worked.

“After that meeting, all these hostilities basically stopped,” he said. “So, you know, up to the time of the lawsuit against me almost four years later, I thought I had really done a good job for these people.”

‘Is he going to do it again?’

But, Bryson said, she was haunted by what happened.

While she ultimately got the child-custody agreement changed without calling Toothaker to testify, it wasn’t easy.

She was forced to undergo a paternity test after MacDiarmid claimed he wasn’t the boy’s father. After the test came back positive, he agreed she could control when he could see their son. He has never asked to do so, she said in the deposition.

Still, she worried about what Scherer might do if custody issues surface in the future.

“Is he going to do it again?” she asked.

Also, she said, she had growing concerns that Scherer might decide to use the information he gathered against her for other purposes.

“What’s going to happen if he has a personal interest in one of the cases that I’m handling as a judge?” she said. “Is he going to do it again?”

“This person cannot get away with it,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened to me. It shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

That’s why, in 2019, she decided to file the suit.

JACK SCAROLA

But, the years-long delay has hurt both sides.

Emails and texts have been deleted. Memories have faded.

When Kemp and Toothaker were deposed, they said they couldn’t remember much of what transpired.

Kemp said he had blocked the memories of what was a dark period in his life. Although he and Toothaker divorced, they remain friendly and often vacation together with their son, he said.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Bryson learned she was under investigation by the JQC, according to court papers filed by Coxe, who is representing the agency.

In her response to the allegations, she claims she worked hard. While serving in county criminal court, handling misdemeanor offenses, she volunteered to help circuit judges by presiding over felony trials, including murder cases.

Her pace continued when she was moved to the south county courthouse to handle minor civil cases, such as evictions, said attorney Scott Richardson, who represented Bryson before he was replaced by lawyer Robert Watson.

However, in 2019, she was plagued by serious health problems, including a ruptured appendix. Despite that, she cleared more cases than her predecessor, he said.

Further, Richardson said, there is no rule that dictates how many hours a judge must work or whether they are prohibited from working from home.

He accused the JQC of engaging in “selective prosecution, leading to a biased and discriminatory result.”

Whether the lawsuit Bryson filed against Scherer spurred the JQC investigation is unknown. Lopez said there could be a connection.

Even if there is, Bryson said, she has no regret about filing the lawsuit which she views as necessary to protect her son. Scherer needs to be held accountable, she said.

“He’s disgusting and reprehensible and everyone should know about it,” she said of Scherer. “I’m done. I’m done playing this game.”

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Florida

June’s List of Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Like, Well, Lawyers

The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 19 attorneys, disbarring three, suspending nine, reprimanding one, and revoking the licenses of six.

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June 2022 Florida Bar List of Disciplinary Actions Against Florida Lawyers

JUN 1, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JULY 9, 2022

BREAKING NEWS FROM LAWS IN FLORIDA .COM

The Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court Has Decided it is Closing the Door on Transparency Due to LIF’s Detailed Investigations, based off the monthly Florida Lawyers behavin’ badly, e.g. the disciplinary list issued by the Florida Bar.

The Amount of Monies these Lawyers are Thievin’ is Now being Withheld from the Disciplinary Reports, where the Rogue Lawyer Admits Guilt and Agrees to the Bar Sanction(s). This is Brand New, before LIF Could Obtain the Amount of Money Finched via their Reporting.

That Stated, We’ll Just Harvest More Facts and Data about the Ochlocracy and Judicial Corruption along with these Rogue Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Badly and Post it On Our No BS Blogs. p.s., the Gov. Ron ‘The Unwanted Dictator” DeSantis is included.

It’s A Coverup. No Details of the Amount of Theft of Funds by the Fl. Bar or Supreme Court.

Charles H. Burns, 205 Golfview Dr., Tequesta, ($1.2M family residence) disciplinary revocation without leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1980)

Burns was the subject of a Bar grievance that involved allegations of misappropriation.

(Case No: SC22-227)

Allan Campbell Should Have Been Disbarred. LIF Has Covered this Case in an Ongoing Series of Articles.

Allan Campbell, 1300 South Duncan Dr., Bldg. A, Tavares, suspended for three years and completion of The Florida Bar’s Ethics School effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1990)

Campbell created a law firm with nonlawyers who were allowed to control Campbell’s law firm and the employees of the firm.

The nonlawyers engaged in the unlicensed practice of law with respect to both the timeshare exit cases and the mortgage foreclosure cases.

Campbell allowed others, including nonlawyers, to file pleadings using Campbell’s e-filing credentials without his approval.

Campbell made accusations under oath in federal court that he later admitted he did not know whether those accusations were true.

Additionally, the nonlawyer employees engaged in negotiations with timeshare resorts, under Campbell’s name as an attorney, located in jurisdictions in which Campbell was not admitted to the practice of law.

Campbell allowed the nonlawyers who ran his law firm to advertise and directly solicit potential clients in a manner that was not allowed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

Finally, one of the nonlawyers who ran Campbell’s law office told Campbell not to come back that the nonlawyer was changing the locks, preventing Campbell from having access to his own law firm.

A new law firm was created with a similar name under a different attorney who continued servicing the cases under Campbell’s law firm without any notice to the clients from Campbell or the new attorney.

(Case No: SC21-1495)

Persistent Offender, Sandra Coracelin’s Devious Behavior Results in Disbarment

Sandra Coracelin, 16211 S.W. 18th St., Miramar ($684k family residence), disbarred effective immediately following a May 23 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Coracelin filed her petition for reinstatement from a three-year suspension.

After determining Coracelin acted in contempt of the two previous orders of suspension, the Bar filed a petition for contempt and order to show cause.

Coracelin committed several misrepresentations to the Bar during the reinstatement proceedings and to an employer during her suspension, including attempting to tamper with a witness and thwart The Florida Bar’s investigation into her conduct during her suspension.

Coracelin also omitted three legal employments, and other jobs, from her petition for reinstatement and failed to disclose the income derived from them.

(Case No: SC20-1473)

Maite Diaz Banked on Florida Bar Reinstatement

Maite L. Diaz, P.O. Box 820300, Pembroke Pines, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2006)

This is a reciprocal discipline action that was issued by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida on June 25, 2019.

It ultimately resulted in Diaz being suspended by the bankruptcy court due to what the court described as gross incompetence.

Diaz appealed the order in federal court and sought reinstatement prior to the conclusion of the appeal.

She was reinstated in 2020 after a finding that she was fully rehabilitated.

(Case No: SC21-1754)

Perverted Florida Lawyer John Gillespie is to be Welcomed Back to the Florida Bar after 3 Years despite being Incarcerated for running his Law Office Like an Underage Prostitution Ring

John Gillespie, 252 8th Ave., Cramerton, NC, suspended for three years, effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Gillespie engaged in misconduct, including a conflict of interest, by engaging in a sexual relationship with a criminal client that resulted in the birth of a child.

Gillespie also made misrepresentations to the Bar during its investigation of this matter.

(Case No: SC20-974)

No Jail Nor Criminal Charges for Microcap Fraud

Lawyer Diane Harrison Disbarred and her Non-lawyer Husband a Co-Conspirator

Diane Joy Harrison, 6719 Bobby Jones Ct., Palmetto, ($570k homestead) disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission effective immediately following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2000)

Harrison was involved in one disciplinary matter pertaining to an SEC judgment entered against her.

(Case No: SC22-386)

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Diane J. Harrison, et al.,

Civil Action No. 18-cv-01003

(M.D. Fla., filed April 25, 2018 before Judge Steven Merryday)

SEC Charges Lawyer and Two Others in Microcap Fraud Schemes

Litigation Release No. 24122 / April 30, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action on April 25, 2018, against a lawyer and two other individuals relating to two microcap schemes involving undisclosed “blank check” companies. In separate, settled administrative proceedings, the SEC charged another individual and two public companies related to one of the schemes.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that attorney Diane J. Harrison, Esq. and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, both of Palmetto, Florida, manufactured at least five microcap issuers with the undisclosed intent to sell them based on their status as public companies with purportedly unrestricted shares available for resale in the public markets.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were pursuing specific business plans with independent management and shareholders by installing friends and family (including defendant Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, Florida, who also provided other assistance to the fraud) as purported officers and shareholders.

The SEC alleges that, in reality, Daniels and Harrison controlled the shares.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison sold four of the five companies to Andy Z. Fan of Las Vegas, Nevada and, along with Bradaick-Zolla, continued to provide support to Fan.

For example, the SEC alleges that Daniels, Harrison, and Bradaick-Zolla prepared false SEC filings, Harrison submitted false legal opinion letters, and Daniels and Bradaick-Zolla entered manipulative trades to artificially set the price of the stocks in the public market.

The SEC previously issued a stop order on the public offering of the fifth company in Daniels and Harrison’s pipeline.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Harrison participated in a separate fraudulent scheme involving at least 11 undisclosed blank check companies secretly controlled by Alvin S. Mirman and Sheldon R. Rose.

The SEC previously filed enforcement actions against Mirman and Rose, who were also convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison based on the same alleged conduct.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Harrison provided at least 21 false legal opinion letters in furtherance of Mirman and Rose’s scheme.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Harrison and Daniels violated

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”)

and

Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”)

and

Rules 10b-5 and Rule 13a-14 thereunder,

and

aided and abetted violations of Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act

and

Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13 and 13a-14 thereunder.

The complaint also alleges that Daniels violated Section 9(a) of the Exchange Act, and that Harrison also violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act.

The complaint further alleges that Harrison and Bradaick-Zolla aided and abetted violations of

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act

and

Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act

and

Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars, and officer-and-director bars against each defendant.

In separate orders instituting settled administrative proceedings, the Commission charged Fan and two public companies under his control, AF Ocean Investment Management Company and ChinAmerica Andy Movie Entertainment Media Company, with issuing false press releases and making false SEC filings regarding their purported revenues.

The Commission also charged Fan with manipulating the price of both companies’ stock and fraudulently selling his controlling interest in another public company.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Fan and the two companies agreed to the entry of cease-and-desist orders.

Fan further agreed to entry of an order barring him from participating in penny stock offerings, barring him from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and ordering him to pay $140,000 in civil penalties.

AF Ocean and ChinAmerica each further agreed to entry of an order revoking their securities registrations.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Jeffrey T. Cook in the Miami Regional Office.

The investigation was supervised by Eric R. Busto. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Amie Riggle Berlin.

U.S. District Court
Middle District of Florida (Tampa)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 8:18-cv-01003-SDM-TGW

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Harrison et al
Assigned to: Judge Steven D. Merryday
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson

Case in other court:  11th Circuit, 19-10509-E
11th Circuit, 19-11950-E

Cause: 15:0077 Securities Fraud

Date Filed: 04/25/2018
Date Terminated: 06/16/2020
Jury Demand: Defendant
Nature of Suit: 850 Securities/Commodities
Jurisdiction: U.S. Government Plaintiff

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
01/11/2021 150 ORDER–NOTICE: COMPLIANCE WITH NEW LOCAL RULE 1.08. Signed by Judge Steven D. Merryday on 1/11/2021. (BK) (Entered: 01/11/2021)

 


 

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SEC Charges Florida Attorney with Investment Fraud

May 1, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil injunctive action against a Florida lawyer accused of investor fraud.

The federal agency alleged that attorney Diane J. Harrison and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, manipulated share prices to inflate the public market value of stock they controlled.

Harrison is a business lawyer licensed to practice in Florida and Nevada.

She specializes in business planning, securities regulation, Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance, public offerings and private placements, according to her website.

Her firm, Harrison Law, is based in Parrish, in the Bradenton–Sarasota–Venice metropolitan area on Florida’s southwestern coast.

Harrison has a degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia Institute of Technology, and once held an engineering position with the U.S. Department of Energy, according to her online biography.

Her business holdings include a plumbing company that tests and repairs residential backflow systems.

But the SEC claimed Harrison also had another line of work:

alleged scams that ran for about four years and violated anti-fraud, registration and reporting provisions of federal securities laws.

“From no later than July 2010 through August 2014, Harrison participated in two separate fraudulent schemes to manufacture public companies for sale, fundamentally premised on a deceptive public float of purportedly ‘free-trading’ securities,” according to the complaint the SEC filed April 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

“The creation of that deceptive public float was dependent on false and misleading statement and omissions to the Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Depository Trust Co. and others.”

The alleged fraud involved “microcap” companies — publicly traded companies with market capitalization or value of around $50-$300 million.

The SEC alleged Harrison and her husband launched at least five microcap companies to issue stock based on these firms’ ability to issue unrestricted shares on the over-the-counter market.

But the companies had no real value, according to the complaint.

Instead, the SEC alleges Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were viable businesses with independent management and shareholders.

Instead, they used friends and relatives to pose as officers and investors.

One friend, Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, was named as a co-defendant in the SEC action.

“Harrison and Daniels’ scheme followed a consistent pattern,” according to the complaint.

They “acquired a small local business, and gifted its privately held securities to approximately 30 friends and family by providing them with all the money to ‘purchase’ the shares.”

Once the “investors” completed the acquisition, Harrison then prepared and filed paperwork with federal agencies to take the company public and offer its shares for sale. “Daniels and Harrison used the identity of a friend — sometimes without his or her knowledge — to be a fellow officer, to create a mirage of not just independent investors, but also independent management,” according to the SEC complaint.

“Each registration statement made false and misleading statements concerning the officers, the company’s business purpose and the ‘selling’ shareholders.” Harrison’s Florida Bar file shows admission in 2010 and no disciplinary history over the last 10 years.

Her Nevada file shows no disciplinary actions, and membership since 2004.

Harrison did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday on the federal charges, and no appearance was immediately entered on her behalf.

Jamindar’s Unacceptable Excuses Are Covered by Florida Bar Attorney Immunity and As Such, Accepted

Nirav Mahendra Jamindar, 17555 Nature Walk Trail, Unit 305, Parker, CO, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

In one matter, Jamindar failed to timely and properly withdraw from an appellate matter, causing delay in the appeal.

In a separate instance, Jamindar represented he was “Of Counsel” for a law firm for a period of time in which he was no longer working for the law firm.

Jamindar inadvertently filed notices of appearance reflecting his “Of Counsel” designation.

In second, third, and fourth matters, Jamindar failed to properly supervise his wife, who solicited legal business for Jamindar without his knowledge.

(Case No: SC21-507)

Chris Lim Should Have Been Disbarred.  Lim’s Part of the Allan Campbell Series of Articles.

Christopher A. Lim, P.O. Box 568163, Orlando, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Lim became involved with two separate “private member associations” that were run by nonlawyers.

The first company marketed itself to individuals wanting to fight foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

Lim and another attorney provided legal services to the customers of the company.

After the company ceased operations, Lim joined another law firm that, in effect, was run by another “private member association” that marketed itself to individuals wanting to defend their foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

The law firm also was used by another nonlawyer’s company that directly solicited individuals who wanted to cancel their timeshare contracts.

The nonlawyer company owners controlled the operations of the law firms and had considerable input into what actions the attorneys took.

The manner in which the law firm was run caused considerable confusion as to which attorney was representing a particular client.

All fees were paid by the customers directly to the companies which then paid the attorneys a salary.

Lim also was sanctioned by the Fifth District Court of Appeal for failing to respond to two Orders to Show Cause for pursuing a meritless appeal.

(Case No: SC21-1666)

Lucente Decided that a Suspension Could be Blanked. That Didn’t Go Down Well.

Janet Peralta Lucente, 1525 N. Park Dr., Suite 102, Weston, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Lucente engaged in the practice of law after being suspended for 91 days by filing pleadings furthering litigation and held herself out as an attorney in said pleadings.

Lucente failed to provide notice of her suspension and a copy of the order to a client and failed to withdraw from the matter prior to the effective date of her suspension.

Lucente also made a misrepresentation in her affidavit to The Florida Bar when she stated she had no clients when the order of suspension was issued.

(Case No: SC22-352)

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison. They were also Florida Lawyers.

Daniel Markovich, 1151 Poinciana Dr., Pembroke Pines, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2017).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

two counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

and two counts of payment and offer kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

Markovich was sentenced to 97 months and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-566)

Jonathan Markovich, 250 95th St, Surfside, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days from an April 28 court order (Admitted to practice: 2013).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

eight counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

one count of payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services; one count of soliciting and receiving kickbacks;

one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering;

eight counts of money laundering; and two counts of bank fraud.

Markovich was sentenced to 188 months, 120 months, and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-570)

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, March 21, 2022

Addiction Treatment Facility Operators Sentenced in $112 Million Addiction Treatment Fraud Scheme

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison Friday for a $112 million addiction treatment fraud scheme that included paying kickbacks to patients through patient recruiters and receiving kickbacks from testing laboratories.

“These substance abuse treatment facility operators, through brazen tactics driven by greed, took advantage of vulnerable patients seeking treatment,”

said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“These sentences demonstrate the department’s unwavering commitment to protecting patients and prosecuting fraudulent substance abuse treatment facilities through our Sober Homes Initiative.”

Jonathan Markovich, 37, and his brother, Daniel Markovich, 33, both of Bal Harbour, were sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to 188 months and 97 months in prison, respectively.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants conspired to unlawfully bill for approximately $112 million of addiction treatment services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided, which were procured through illegal kickbacks at two addiction treatment facilities, Second Chance Detox LLC, dba Compass Detox (Compass Detox), an inpatient detox and residential facility, and WAR Network LLC (WAR), a related outpatient treatment program.

The defendants obtained patients through patient recruiters who offered illegal kickbacks to patients, including free airline tickets, illegal drugs, and cash payments.

The defendants shuffled a core group of patients between Compass Detox and WAR in a cycle of admissions and re-admissions to fraudulently bill for as much as possible.

Patient recruiters gave patients illegal drugs prior to admission to Compass Detox to ensure admittance for detox, which was the most expensive kind of addiction treatment offered by the defendants’ facilities.

In addition, therapy sessions were billed for but not regularly provided or attended, and excessive, medically unnecessary urinalysis drug tests were ordered, billed for, and paid. Compass Detox patients were given a so-called “Comfort Drink” to sedate them, and to keep them coming back.

Patients were also given large and potentially harmful amounts of controlled substances, in addition to the “Comfort Drink,” to keep them compliant and docile, and to ensure they stayed at the facility.

“To manipulate and exploit patients seeking help in their most vulnerable state is unacceptable,”

said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“These individuals orchestrated a scheme that sought profits over the well-being of patients, and they will be held accountable for their actions. With the help of our law enforcement partners, the FBI continues to investigate, bring down these criminal enterprises, and protect our citizens.”

After a seven-week trial in November 2021, both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Jonathan Markovich was convicted of eight counts of health care fraud and Daniel Markovich was convicted of two counts of health care fraud.

They were also both convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and two counts of paying and receiving kickbacks.

Jonathan Markovich was separately convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and six counts of laundering at least $10,000 in proceeds of unlawful activities.

He was also convicted of two counts of bank fraud related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans for both Compass Detox and WAR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FBI’s Miami Field Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Broward County Sherriff’s Office investigated the case.

Senior Litigation Counsel Jim Hayes and Trial Attorney Jamie de Boer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

The National Rapid Response Strike Force, Miami Strike Force, and Los Angeles Strike Force lead the Department of Justice’s Sober Homes Initiative, which was announced in the 2020 National Health Care Fraud Takedown to prosecute defendants who exploit vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Topic(s):
Coronavirus
Disaster Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Component(s):
Criminal Division
Criminal – Criminal Fraud Section
Press Release Number:
22-270

PENDING CRIMINAL DIVISION CASES

Sober Homes Takedown

United States v. Jonathan Markovich et al. (21-CR-60020)

All hearings will be held before Judge William P. Dimitrouleas United States Courthouse, 299 East Broward Blvd. #108, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 unless otherwise noted.

Latest Updates:

On March 24, 2022 defendant Jose Santeiro was found guilty by a federal jury. His sentencing hearing has been set for June 17, 2022 at 01:30 PM.

The arraignment hearing for defendant Jeffrey Draesel has been reset for June 19, 2022 at 11:00 AM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Waserstein has been reset for June 27, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Bosch has been set for June 30, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

On May 10, 2022 defendant Lieberman was sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,851,538.51 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Jonathan Markovich was sentenced to 188 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,122,500 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Daniel Markovich was sentenced to 97 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,850,000 in restitution.

On March 10, 2022 defendant Elan Bakhshi was sentenced 25 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,904,187 in restitution.

On April 6, 2022, defendant Christopher Garnto was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $375,227 in restitution.

The sentencing hearing previously scheduled for defendant Kustura has been cancelled.

Please note that due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, courthouses may have different rules regarding in-person attendance. Please check the court’s website or contact us at Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov if you are planning to attend.

Criminal Charges:

On or about September 25, 2020, ten defendants were charged by criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for their alleged participation in conspiracies to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, violate the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, and money laundering offenses. Defendant Jonathan Markovich was also charged with bank fraud and false statements to a financial institution for seeking Paycheck Protection Program loans.

These defendants are owners, operators, doctors, and patient recruiters for two substance abuse treatment centers in Broward County, Florida:

Second Chance Detox, LLC, doing business as Compass Detox (“COMPASS”), a detox and residential inpatient facility,

and

WAR Network, LLC (“WAR”), a related outpatient program.

Eight of these defendants were indicted on January 19, 2021.

On November 4, 2021, Defendant Jonathan Markovich was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services, soliciting and receiving kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and bank fraud.

Defendant Daniel Markovich was also convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

For more information about the Sober Homes Takedown, please see below:

Criminal Complaint

Assistance for those with medical needs who may have been impacted by the Sober Homes Takedown enforcement actions:

DOJ, DEA, HHS-OIG, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Children and Families are deploying federal and state-level strategies to address patient harm and ensure continuity of care. Additional information regarding available treatment programs and where patients can turn for assistance is as follows:

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Resources in Miami-Dade County
Thriving Mind South Florida Brochure

Victim Impact Statement: If you would like to submit a Victim Impact Statement, you may do so by mailing the Victim Impact Statement to: Victim Witness Unit, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, Room 4416, Washington, DC 20530. You also may submit the Victim Impact Statement via email at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or by fax at: (202) 514-3708.

Victim Impact Statement (PDF)

The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.

Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that an indictment contains allegations only, and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the government (or the court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.

If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.

Meadors Abhorrent Criminal Acts

Michael Jay Meadors, 500 E. University Ave., Suite B, Gainesville, permanent disciplinary revocation effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

Meadors is charged by criminal information with one count of child sexual battery

(Count I, Capital Felony),

and 21 counts of promoting 23-1 and possessing a sexual performance by a child

(Counts II-X, First Degree Felonies, and XI-XXII, Second Degree Felonies).

(Case No: SC22-245)

Mitchell’s Not Receivin’ First Amendment Protection for Bashin’ Outlaws in Dirty Black Robes

Raymond B. Mitchell, 3717 Del Prado Blvd. S., Suite 1, Cape Coral, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a March 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

Mitchell was found to have engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and of making disparaging statements which impugned the qualifications and integrity of a judge.

(Case No: SC20-1777)

Newman Needed to Top Up His Retirement, And His Wish Was Granted, Free of Criminal Prosecution

Lawrence Bruce Newman, (75), 1900 Glades Rd., Boca Raton [virtual address, the actual home address for Newman is 17100 Grand Bay Dr, Boca Raton, FL, 33496-2913], disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission effective April 27 following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1974)

Newman agreed to a disciplinary revocation concerning the misuse of funds.

(Case No: SC22-402)

Ramer Needs Coached

Alan Howard Ramer, 10602 S.W. 77th Terr., Miami, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

This is a reciprocal discipline action stemming from a six-month suspension order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that was to be rescinded if Ramer complied with remedial requirements.

To date, he has not complied.

Ramer repeatedly failed to timely comply with discovery requests and/or produce complete responses, failed to attend court-ordered mediation, failed to respond to opposing counsel’s emails, failed to comply with court orders, and failed to comply with the local rules for the Southern District Court of Florida.

(SC20-1027)

Lawyer Rheinstein is Filin’ Frivolously and Makin’ Threats. Move to Texas, That Behavior is Deemed Zealous Advocacy.

Jason Edward Rheinstein, P.O. Box 1369, Severna Park, MD, disbarred effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

Rheinstein was found to have filed numerous pleadings lacking merit in violation of rules of procedure in both federal and state cases.

Rheinstein also filed numerous frivolous pleadings and took positions unsupported by the facts or the law.

Rheinstein violated the rules by attempting to prove an elaborate conspiracy theory in order to force a settlement, as well as issuing unsubstantiated accusations against his legal opponent regarding a fraud scheme that led a court to believe the opponent was under federal investigation.

Rheinstein also engaged in a series of actions,

including threatening to report his opponent’s attorneys to the Attorney Grievance Commission if they refused to drop an appeal or withdraw from the case,

making accusations of ex parte communication with the clerk’s office in an effort to manipulate the trial record,

and

threatening opposing counsels with claims related to their clients’ alleged fraudulent conduct.

This is a reciprocal discipline action based on an order from The Court of Appeals of Maryland dated January 24, 2020.

(Case No: SC20-1614)

Sarbinoff is a Lawyer and a Criminal. Grant, You’re the Perfect Lawyer.

Grant Griffith Sarbinoff, 411 N.E. 53rd St., Miami, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2010). (Now showing as ‘RETIRED’, per Fl. Bar Profile).

Sabrinoff was adjudicated guilty of the following felony offenses:

two counts of criminal use of personal identification information;

one count of unlawful use of a two-way communications device;

and

16 counts of offenses against users of computers.

(Case No: SC22-573)

Siegmeister is a Prosecutor Who Requested and Received Bribes for Reduced Sentences Over Many, Many Years. His Criminal Trial is Currently Ongoing. Note: there’s not a Detailed Summary in this Disbarment by the Florida Judiciary, LIF knows Why.

Jeffrey Alan Siegmeister, P.O. Box 329, Live Oak, permanent disciplinary revocation, effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

On February 22, 2022, Siegmeister pled guilty to the following:

conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1952(a)(3);

conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a);

wire fraud,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343;

and filing a false tax return,

in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1).

(Case No: SC22-307)

KC Wright’s Behavin’ Like a Normal Lawyer – Unfortunately, He Got Himself Arrested and is Now a Fugitive

Kenneth Carl Wright, 121 South Orange Ave., Suite 1500, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

Wright was arrested for suspected shoplifting, for trespassing and resisting arrest without violence on March 10, 2020.

In August of 2020, Wright entered a plea to the trespass charge and received a time served jail sentence and a withhold of adjudication.

The resisting without violence charge was dismissed by the state pursuant to Wright’s plea agreement.

Wright failed to advise The Florida Bar of his criminal plea.

In September 2020, Wright was arrested in Denver, Colorado, for burglary.

Wright failed to appear for his court proceedings in relation to that charge.

He absconded and is subject to a warrant for arrest as a fugitive from justice.

Wright did not participate in the Bar’s disciplinary proceedings against him.

(Case No: SC21-1215)

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.

Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles.

To view discipline documents, follow these steps.

Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined.

The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline.

Disbarred lawyers may not reapply for admission for five years.

They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation.

Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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Florida

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

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

Published

on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No criminal charges were filed against either Watson or Lentner.

The Conflicting Mediator Resume for Laura Watson

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

Former Broward County judge disbarred for her conduct as attorney

Laura Watson removed from office in 2015

May 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other attorneys sued Watson and won.

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

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

July 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Federal Judges

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

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

Published

on

LIF Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

United States v. Curtis

(2:21-cr-00464)

District Court, D. Utah

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

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

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

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

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

No fine.

SPA $200.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Count(s) 2, BOP 97 months.

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

No fine. SPA $200.

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

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

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

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

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

jewelry purchased at Summit Diamond for $73,935.

Defendant Termed.

Case Closed.

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

(Entered: 05/09/2022)

1305 Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

Sold for $1.75M in April 2021

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

Judge rejects plea deal for Utah attorney charged with embezzling millions

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

Judge David Barlow and Calvin Curtis

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

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

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

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

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

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

“Your moral compass is not there,”

Sanford said.

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

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

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

“This brought me almost to suicide,”

Hall said.

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

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

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

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

Sherry McConkey said.

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

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

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

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

Curtis said.

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

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

Hall responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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