The Florida Bar finds no probable cause to proceed on trust account allegations against KEL law firm partners related to money scam

Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent media reports that The Florida Bar no probable cause to proceed against partners in Orlando’s KEL law firm related to Bar rule violations related to an international money scam in which the law firm was defrauded of more than $285,000.00.

The Florida Bar began its investigation after several Bar complaints were filed alleging that the KEL law firm’s three principal partners mismanaged trust account funds when the firm unwittingly became involved in the money scam.  In late February 2012, a Bar grievance committee found that the lawyers in KEL did not violate any Bar disciplinary rules when the law firm was scammed into depositing a fraudulent bank check in the amount of $285,000.00 into its trust account and wiring the funds to a Japanese bank account before the funds had cleared the bank.

As I have stated on numerous occasions and in previous trust account seminars, Florida Bar trust account rules require lawyers to wait for trust funds to clear all banks before the funds are disbursed; however, there are exceptions and the Bar’s Notice of No Probable Cause found that the lawyers had “reasonable and prudent grounds to believe” the check was legitimate (under Florida Bar Rule 5-1.1(j)(3)), which is one of these exceptions.

According to the media reports, the Notice also stated that KEL fully cooperated with a federal investigation of the incident, that the funds have since been “retrieved.”  Federal authorities had previously filed a forfeiture suit seeking to recover the money from JPMorgan Chase, an affiliate of Japan’s Shinsei Bank, where the money was deposited.

Bottom line:  This is a very real example of the substantial risks to lawyers related to these types of international/internet money scams and should be a stark lesson to all lawyers.  Please don’t be fooled and don’t let this happen to you…

…and be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

THE LAW OFFICE OF JOSEPH A. CORSMEIER, P.A.

PROVIDES ETHICS ADVICE AND EXPERT OPINIONS TO LAWYERS AND LAW FIRMS

DEFENDS LAWYERS IN BAR MISSION AND DISCIPLINE CASES

(AND MUCH MORE!)

My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at jcorsmeier@jac-law.com.  You can find my law firm on the web at www.jac-law.com. In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

NOTICE OF CONFIDENTIALITY:  This electronic communication and the information contained herein is legally privileged and confidential proprietary information intended only for the individual and/or entity to whom it is addressed pursuant to the American Bar Association Formal Opinion No. 99-413, dated March 10, 1999 and all other applicable laws and rules.  If you receive this transmission in error, you are advised that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance upon the communication is strictly prohibited.  Any unauthorized use, distribution, or disclosure of this communication is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this in error, please notify us immediately by return e-mail at the above telephone number and then delete message entirely from your system.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, joe corsmeier, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s