June 29, 2006
Victims of attorney theft awarded more than $325,000
The Board of Commissioners of the Clients' Security Fund of Ohio (CSF) awarded $326,688 to 24 victims of attorney theft. Eleven former or suspended Ohio attorneys were found to have misappropriated client funds.
The Board determined that a former client of suspended Franklin County attorney Perry R. Silverman was eligible for reimbursement of $22,709 as a result of Silverman's failure to release or otherwise account for his client funds. Silverman was suspended from the practice of law in Ohio and was convicted of theft, among other charges, and is currently incarcerated.
The CSF Board of Commissioners reimbursed $26,244 to a former client of suspended Ashtabula County attorney James Lemieux. Lemieux failed to distribute and account for settlement proceeds obtained on behalf of his client.
Two clients of former Brown County attorney Edward L. Harp were reimbursed $1,250 total by the Board of Commissioners after finding that Harp accepted fees but failed to provide the services requested. Harp was suspended from practicing law in Ohio, and with discipline pending, he surrendered his license.
The Board awarded a total of $86,530 in reimbursement to three former clients of former Butler County attorney James Dodge. Dodge resigned from the practice of law in Ohio following his conviction for fraud and theft.
A former client of Erie County attorney Richard Huber was awarded $1,300 after the Board found that Huber failed to provide the services requested by his client. Huber was suspended from the practice of law for one year and was ordered to refund the $1,300 fee to his client.
Three clients of former Mahoning County attorney Mark S. Colucci were reimbursed a total of $25,000 as a result of Colucci's failure to provide the services requested. Colucci resigned from the practice of law in Ohio, with discipline pending. He also was convicted of tax evasion and was sentenced to 18 months.
Two clients of former attorney Diane Y. Politi, also of Mahoning County, received $9,000 in reimbursement as a result of Politi's failure to provide the services requested. Politi resigned from the practice of law, with discipline pending.
A client of Morgan County attorney David L. White II was reimbursed $750 in legal fees they had paid to White for services that he failed to provide. White was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law following a previous drug-related conviction.
The Board determined that a client of suspended Perry County attorney Curtis Griffith Jr. be reimbursed for $2,898 in legal fees Griffith accepted and then failed to provide the services requested. Griffith was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio.
The Board reimbursed $149,323 to eight former clients of Preble County attorney Herd L. Bennett. Bennett obtained funds from his former clients allegedly under false pretenses and failed to repay the funds prior to his death.
A former client of Scioto County attorney Gary Billiter was reimbursed $1,685 as a result of Billiter's failure to provide the services requested. Billiter was suspended, then resigned from the practice of law with discipline pending.
The Clients' Security Fund of Ohio was created in 1985 by the Supreme Court of Ohio to reimburse victims of attorney theft, embezzlement or misappropriation. The CSF is not taxpayer funded, but supported entirely by registration fees paid by every Ohio attorney. Ohio has more than 41,000 attorneys engaged in the active practice of law. Less than one-tenth of one percent of those attorneys is involved in CSF claims.