Sunday, June 18, 2017

Attorney Who Voluntarily Turned In Law License In Lieu Of Getting The Boot Now Pleads Guilty To Pilfering Over $2.5 Million Of Entrusted Money From Unwitting Clients

In San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reports:
  • Disgraced former San Antonio lawyer Todd Prins, who has been accused of fabricating court documents, forging judges’ signatures and stealing money out of his law firm’s trust account for his own use, has agreed to plead guilty.

    Prins, 51, this week [June 9] signed a plea deal in which he agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. He voluntarily gave up his law license earlier this year in lieu of being disciplined by the State Bar of Texas. Prins was charged by prosecutors in a court filing that was made public Friday [June 9].
    ***
    Prins’ legal troubles surfaced in his bankruptcy case in November when he was accused of fabricating court documents and forging judges’ signatures in an elaborate scheme to conceal from two clients the status of a lawsuit they filed in 2009.

    Court filings contained copies of allegedly manufactured court rulings bearing the signatures of various judges, from U.S. District Judge Fred Biery to Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht to state District Judge Solomon J. Casseb III.

    “My clients were completely bamboozled,” Jason Davis, an attorney for William and Karen Ozer, said during a Nov. 7 bankruptcy court hearing in San Antonio. The Ozers have sued Prins, alleging he committed fraud and breached his fiduciary duty to them.

    Prins issued the Ozers a $1.6 million promissory note, which he claimed was settlement proceeds from a judgment they received in the lawsuit. In actuality, the plea agreement said, there was no such settlement.

    Under the terms of his plea deal, Prins has agreed to repay $225,264 to the Ozers.

    Prins’ troubles worsened last fall when he faced arrest in a Houston bankruptcy court for allegedly pocketing $2.4 million from a Oct. 4 foreclosure sale he conducted for a client. But the sale was done without a judge’s approval and then Prins failed to turn over the proceeds from the sale, according to a December court order.

    According to the plea deal, Prins transferred the $2.4 million from his law firm’s trust account to his law firm’s bank account at Wells Fargo Bank and kept $800,000 for himself.

    U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeff Bohm in Houston previously found Prins used the Wells Fargo account to purchase four plane tickets for almost $1,900 and vacation lodging for more than $5,000 at hotels.com.

    “Prins continued to charge tens of thousands of dollars” to the Wells Fargo account to fund a “lavish European vacation” over the next few weeks with stops in London, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Copenhagen, Denmark for him and his family, Bohm said.

    In March, Bohm imposed $800,000 in sanctions plus more than $56,000 in attorneys' fees against Prins after he failed to turn over the proceeds from the foreclosure sale, as previously ordered. The $800,000 in sanctions imposed by Bohm represented the difference between the property’s $2.4 million sales price and $1.6 million that was seized by the government.

    Bohm referred the matter to the U.S. attorney's office for potential criminal prosecution.

    As part of the plea deal, Prins has agreed to repay the $2.4 million to Elbar Investments Inc. It paid Prins the money to acquire a foreclosed residential property, but it never took title to the house and was out of its money.

    In another legal case Prins handled for two clients, he is accused of stealing $150,000 that was supposed to be held in his law firm’s trust account, the plea agreement said. The document added that in another case Prins negotiated a $75,000 legal settlement but kept the money for himself.

    Prins, in yet another case he handled, received $125,000 as a partial settlement of a lawsuit. But rather than delivering the funds to the rightful owner, the plea agreement said Prins kept the money for his own use.

    Prins has agreed to complete a financial statement as part of the plea agreement.(1)
For more, see Disgraced ex-lawyer Prins agrees to plead guilty.
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(1) In Texas, the Client Security Fund was created to help (at least partially) compensate persons who have suffered a loss of money or property due to misappropriation or embezzlement by a Texas-licensed attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.  ripoff reimbursement

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