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- 2009 - August - 17th -

Nearly 50 attorneys disciplined by Courts

After not releasing any disciplinary reports since May, the Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 47 attorneys, disbarring 16, suspending 24 and placing one on probation.

None of the almost 50 attorneys are members of the Jacksonville Bar Association or from the Northeast Florida area.

Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Seven attorneys were reprimanded. Five were ordered to pay restitution.

The following lawyers are disciplined:

Disbarred

• Guy B. Bailey Jr. of Miami, disbarred, effective June 13, following an April 23 court order. Bailey issued trust account checks to a client that were returned because of insufficient funds. He also failed to preserve client funds in accordance with Florida Bar rules regulating trust accounts.

• Scott Wilson Barger of Miami, disbarred, effective immediately, following an April 23 court order. Barger failed to preserve and apply client funds entrusted to him for a real estate transaction.

• Elizabeth Aileen Broome of Pensacola, disbarred for five years effective immediately, following a June 18 court order. Broome was further ordered to pay restitution in the amount of more than $45,000 to 14 clients. In January, Broome was felony suspended by the Bar. She was found guilty in court of 13 counts of grand theft. In several instances, Broome took legal fees but failed to provide legal services. She also misappropriated and commingled client trust funds.

• A. Clark Cone of West Palm Beach, disbarred for five years effective immediately, following a May 14 court order. Cone was suspended by the Florida Supreme Court in March. Cone misappropriated thousands of dollars in client funds, he intentionally made false statements to The Florida Bar during the course of a disciplinary investigation, failed to communicate with clients and failed to respond to the grievance committee’s subpoena.

• Gregory R. Deal of Haines City, disbarred effective immediately, following a May 28 court order. Deal was placed on emergency suspension in January by the Florida Supreme Court. Deal used client funds for his own purposes and he improperly commingled attorney and client funds to prevent his former wife from obtaining funds to which she was entitled. In October 2008, Deal’s trust account had a shortage of more than $65,000, created by Deal writing checks to himself.

• Brooke Eugene Fisher of West Palm Beach, disbarred effective immediately, following a July 2 court order. Fisher was placed on emergency suspension in September 2008. Based on three separate complaints, a Florida Bar investigation and audit found substantial shortages in the trust account and the intentional misappropriation of client funds.

• Scott Marshall Greenbaum of Fort Lauderdale, disbarred for five years, effective immediately, following a June 4 court order. In December 2007, Greenbaum was placed on suspension for six months and probation for three years. He failed to comply with the terms of those sanctions. Greenbaum also failed to notify his clients of the suspension as required.

• Kenneth James Hamel of Miami, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 23 court order. Hamel represented a buyer in a real estate transaction. Hamel advised the seller’s attorney on more than one occasion that he held a deposit of $50,000. Hamel did not have the deposit and thereafter agreed as a part of a settlement in subsequent litigation to personally pay the seller the $50,000. Hamel never paid the seller. As a result of The Florida Bar’s investigation, Hamel was served a subpoena to appear and produce bank records. Rather than comply with the subpoena, Hamel chose instant disbarment.

• Mark Kevin Koenig of Palm Beach Gardens, disbarred effective 30 days from the date of a June 18 court order. Koenig accepted an excessive fee to represent a client in a murder case for which he was not qualified. He also held trust funds from settlement proceeds belonging to several clients, but failed to pay their medical bills to a particular company. When inquiries were made by the company regarding the outstanding bills, Koenig failed to respond. A Florida Bar audit determined that Koenig had shortages in his trust account and had intentionally misappropriated funds.

• Ronald Thomas Rider of Fort Pierce, disbarred for 10 years, effective immediately, following a June 18 court order. An audit of Rider’s trust account found that Rider misappropriated client settlement funds; in some instances, he failed to communicate with clients regarding their settlements; he failed to respond in writing to the Bar’s investigative inquiry and he closed his law office without advising the Bar of a change of address.

• Karen Marie Smith of Winter Park, disbarred for five years, effective immediately, following a June 25 court order. In numerous instances, Smith failed to pursue her clients’ cases. She failed to communicate with clients and the courts and failed to timely file required paperwork. Smith abandoned her solo practice without prior notice and without taking steps to protect the interests of her clients. She was indefinitely suspended in June 2008 for failure to comply with a grievance committee subpoena.

• Wilfrid M. Whitney of Hialeah, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 23 court order. Whitney misappropriated client trust funds in the amount of approximately $120,000. He also failed to provide legal services for which he had received a fee.

• Leonard U. Stolar Miami, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 23 court order. Stolar failed to preserve and apply estate funds in connection with a client’s estate.

• Steven Curtis Lawson of Fort Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately, following a May 14 court order. Lawson abandoned representation of an incarcerated criminal defendant and he failed to respond to calls and letters from the judge handling the case.

• Lisa Metellus of Plantation, disbarred effective retroactive to January 3, following a May 28 court order. Further, Metellus shall pay restitution in the amount of $74,375.74 to one client. Metellus misappropriated client funds. In April 2008, Metellus issued a check to a client in the amount of $74,375.74 for a divorce settlement. The check was returned for insufficient funds. The Bar’s audit found that a $75,000 divorce settlement check for the client was deposited into Metellus’ trust account on Dec. 12, 2007. As of March 31, 2008, Metellus’ trust account was overdrawn by more than $4,000.

• Barry Roy Nager of Winter Springs, disbarred effective 30 days from the date of an April 1 court order. On Aug. 30, 2007, Nager was suspended for 90 days, effective Oct. 1, 2007. Reinstatement would have been automatic after 90 days. The court’s order required that Nager accept no new business until reinstatement. Nager did not properly notify his clients of the suspension; while suspended, Nager sought to accept new business and he practiced law.

Suspended

• Tashi Iana Richards of Pembroke Pines, suspended until further order, following a June 22 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Richards appeared to be causing great public harm by the misappropriation of client trust funds or property. A Bar audit found that Richards failed to hold in trust $13,000 received from a client. As of Oct. 31, 2008, Richards’ trust account balance was $.01. The audit further concluded that Richards failed to maintain minimum trust account records.

• Jack Willard Snyder of Potomac, Md., suspended effective 30 days from a May 8 court order. Snyder pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Maryland, to one count of knowingly and willfully making a false statement to a government entity, a felony. Upon taking a job with the National Institutes of Health, Snyder was instructed to cease his litigation consulting business. He continued to operate the business and earn outside income. As a federal employee, Snyder was required under law to seek approval for participation in outside activities and report any compensation he received. Snyder never informed his primary employer that he continued to operate the consulting business and received $589,450 in additional income from that job in 2003-2005.

• Charles Behm of Pomona Park, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from an April 23 court order. Behm’s handling of two guardianship cases was incompetent. His pattern of behavior caused delays in the cases as well as additional costs for the clients. Behm failed to respond in writing for 19 months to the Bar’s inquiries about allegations against him.

• Marni Blayne Belkin of Delray Beach, suspended until further notice, following an April 27 court order. In January, Belkin pleaded guilty in federal court, to one court of conspiracy to file a false loan application, a felony.

• Diane P. Caggiano of Hyannis, Mass., suspended for one year, effective 30 days from a May 28 court order. Caggiano was also a member of the Massachusetts Bar. In three separate instances, Caggiano failed to properly represent clients. She failed to communicate with clients, ignoring letters and not returning calls. In one case, Caggiano failed to inform her client that the claim against one defendant had been dismissed, that a motion for summary judgment had been filed or that she had possibly sued the wrong defendants.

• Marvin Lee Stull of St. Petersburg, suspended until further order, following a July 13 court order. According to an emergency suspension order, Stull appeared to be causing great public harm. Stull used a deceased client’s debit card. In June, he was arrested for failure to appear in court.

• Peter David Ticktin of Deerfield Beach, suspended for 91 days, following a May 21 court order. Ticktin was involved in several representations and business dealings that constituted conflicts of interest.

• Keith Wasserstrom of Davie, suspended for three years, effective retroactive to April 18, 2008, following an April 30 court order. In February 2009, Wasserstrom was convicted of felonies in circuit court in connection with his position as a city commissioner in Hollywood.

• John A. Yanchek, III of Sarasota, suspended until further order, following a March 19 court order. Yanchek committed perjury, a first degree misdemeanor in connection with a real estate transaction in which he acted as a closing agent and a title insurance agent. In three separate real estate transactions in which Yanchek acted as the escrow agent, he intentionally misrepresented to the sellers that deposit money was in his trust account, when in fact, he had not received any deposits from his clients. Yanchek also failed to timely file real estate paperwork and he failed to respond to the grievance committee’s request for documents.

• Ryan Thomas Dosen of Kennett Square, Pa., suspended until further order, following a June 30 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Dosen appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating and/or diverting funds entrusted to him. The Florida Bar’s investigation indicated that Dosen engaged in numerous fraudulent real estate transactions.

• Philip Frank Filosa of North Port, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from a June 4 court order. In October 2008, Filosa received a public reprimand in Massachusetts, where he was also a member of the bar. Filosa prepared a document that resulted in him receiving a substantial bequest from a person to whom he was not related. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island censured Filosa in November 2008 based on the Massachusetts sanction.

• Andrew Stuart Forman of Tampa, suspended until further order, following a June 4 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Forman has caused serious harm to the public. He represented a small business lending corporation, receiving $308,000 in trust to be used to fund a bid at a foreclosure sale. The client was not the successful bidder, so the money was not used and should have been returned. Forman removed the money from his trust account and failed to return the funds to his client.

• Mitchell Eric Fox of Plantation, suspended until further order following a May 20 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Fox appeared to be causing great public harm. The Florida Bar’s compliance audit based on eight complaints found that Fox misappropriated client funds, commingled his own funds with funds held in trust and failed to maintain minimum trust account records.

• Howard Seth Gaines of Boca Raton, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from an April 16 court order. In December 2008, in U.S. District Court, Gaines was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud, felonies. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $422,465 to three victims.

• Delmer C. Gowing, III of Ocean Ridge, suspended until further order, following a June 2 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Gowing appeared to be causing great public harm. Gowing represented a client in arbitration proceedings. A Florida Bar audit revealed that in October 2008, award checks totaling $33,679.98 were issued to Gowing for the client. He deposited them into his operating account instead of his trust account and failed to provide the client with all of the client’s settlement proceeds. Gowing is charged with misappropriating client funds. Shortages in his trust account ranged from $20,000 in September 2006 to $67,930 in January 2009.

• Gary John Hausler of Naples, suspended until further order, following a May 21 court order. According to an emergency suspension order, Hausler had caused or was likely to cause serious harm to his clients and/or to the public. Hausler was entrusted with $80,000 by clients for use in making a mortgage loan. Hausler admitted to using the money for a personal obligation without his clients’ permission.

• Dennis Hernandez of Tampa, suspended for 90 days, effective 60 days from the date of a May 14 court order. Hernandez is further ordered to attend ethics school and pay restitution in the amount of $19,766 to six clients. Hernandez did not adequately supervise his employees to ensure their compliance with rules of professional conduct. In at least two instances, a client met with an associate and a non-lawyer employee whom the client thought to be an attorney. On a section of his firm’s Web site entitled “Our Attorneys,” Hernandez listed the names and biographies of several people who were not Florida lawyers. Hernandez may have also billed some non-lawyers on cases at the firm’s attorney rates of $200 to $300 per hour.

• William L. Mims Jr. of Orlando, suspended for 91 days following a June 4 court order, consecutive to a 91-day suspension ordered in February. Mims was the attorney for a legal aid pro bono case, but he failed to perform his duties or communicate with the client. He subsequently failed to file a motion to withdraw from the representation and failed to communicate with the court. In another matter, Mims failed to diligently pursue settlement of an estate, nor did he timely respond to the Bar’s inquiries into the matter.

• David Mogul of Boca Raton, suspended for 90 days, effective retroactive to Nov. 2, 2008, following a May 14 court order. Mogul is further directed to attend a trust accounting workshop. Mogul commingled personal funds with client funds in his trust account and did not maintain minimum required trust account records or procedures. He used personal funds placed in his trust account for payment of his own personal expenses, including fees related to his divorce case and the purchase of a boat.

• Thomas Lemeul Hurst of Miami, suspended for 91 days, effective 60 days from a May 7 court order. In June 2002, Hurst was appointed as the personal representative of an estate. A year later, one of the heirs requested full disclosure of assets and expenditures from the estate, but Hurst never responded. In July 2005, the court entered an order of dismissal of the probate case due to Hurst’s failure to properly administer the estate.

• Robin Peter Jung of Seminole, suspended effective 30 days from a June 15 court order. In February, Jung pleaded guilty in circuit court to possession of cocaine, a felony.

• J.A. Jurgens of Longwood, suspended until further order, following a June 22 court order. According to an emergency suspension order, Jurgens appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating funds held in his trust account. The Florida Bar’s investigation indicated that Jurgens took client funds from his trust account and used them for his own personal purposes.

• Joseph S. Lefrak of New York, N.Y., suspended until further order, following an April 15 court order. According to the emergency suspension order, Lefrak appeared to be causing great public harm. In New York, Lefrak was disbarred for his alleged improper refusal to release estate funds due a client; commingling of client funds and refusal to respond to a judicial subpoena. In addition, after Lefrak’s emergency suspension in New York, before his disbarment, two checks from his attorney escrow account were returned for insufficient funds.

• Oscar Summer Mayers Jr. of Herndon, Va., suspended for 18 months, effective retroactive to Sept. 4, 2008, following a May 28 court order. In addition to having membership in The Florida Bar, Mayers was a member of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In March, Mayers was disciplined by the court for misconduct pertaining to a child support proceeding. Mayers admitted to altering a check and making a false statement to the court. In January 2005, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to pay child support. Mayers failed to timely notify the Bar of the discipline.

Reprimanded

• J. Rod Cameron of Pace, received a public reprimand following a May 14 court order. Cameron failed to properly represent a client in a worker’s compensation suit in 2003. When the client died a year later, the case had not yet been settled. Cameron mistakenly believed that he was entitled to pursue the case on behalf of the estate and the personal representative.

• Peter Dale Fellows of Miami, received a public reprimand following an April 23 court order. Fellows is further ordered to attend ethics school. Fellows was retained in October 2005 to represent clients in a lawsuit but he failed to maintain adequate communication with them. The couple subsequently hired a new attorney after being dissatisfied with Fellows and the progress on the case.

• Mark S. Gallegos of Miami, reprimanded and placed on probation for one year, effective immediately, following a May 21 court order. Gallegos is further ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,000 to one client and attend ethics school. Gallegos was retained in January 2005 to represent a client in connection with an apartment complex condominium conversion. He was paid a $2,000 deposit in accordance with the retainer agreement, but thereafter, repeatedly neglected to communicate with the client.

• Caryn S. Grainer of Hollywood, reprimanded following an April 23 court order. In October 2005, Grainer filed on behalf of her client a motion to set aside mediation agreement. Grainer alleged that she had a good faith basis for filing the motion, but the court found that she acted in bad faith and awarded attorneys fees in the amount of $15,368.95— $7,684.47 of which was to be paid by Grainer personally. Grainer did not pay any of the sanction entered against her, but voluntarily submitted to a deposition and filed a financial affidavit. She offered a payment plan to opposing counsel, but he declined and sought a judgment instead.

• Kathy B. Gregg of Wauchula, reprimanded following a June 18 court order. Gregg is also ordered to attend ethics school. In fall 2007, Gregg accepted $1,500 as a retainer from a client on military duty. She failed to respond to the client’s numerous e-mails or telephone calls requesting the status of his case until July 2008 when the client filed a grievance. During the Bar’s investigation, Gregg admitted that she commingled the client’s deposit by placing it into her operating account.

• Darin Wade Mellinger of Boca Raton, publicly reprimanded following an April 23 court order. In October 2006, Mellinger began representation of a client and his company in a real estate contract. On at least one occasion, Mellinger told the seller’s counsel that he was holding $25,000 in escrow, when in fact, the check had been returned by the bank for insufficient funds. Following a breach of contract and failure of further negotiations, the sellers sued the client and his company as well as Mellinger’s law firm.

• Eduardo Rigoberto Soto of Coral Gables, received a public reprimand following an April 23 court order. Further, Soto shall pay restitution totaling $10,200 to two clients. In several instances in which Soto was retained to handle cases, he failed to communicate with the clients.

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