As attorneys, we are in a fiduciary role and must be honest and fair with our clients. Our clients trust us with their lives, their families, and their savings. Hopefully, you don’t need to be told to not steal money from your clients because it is obviously egregious. But when a case comes out about an attorney who lost his way, it can serve as a reminder to keep us on our ethical toes.
An attorney out of Salt Lake City, Mr. Curtis, was just sentenced to 97 months in federal prison and assessed with almost $13 million dollars in restitution. The prosecuting team initially had reached a plea deal with Mr. Curtis for 6 years in prison, but the judge rejected those terms as unreasonable. Mr. Curtis plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. The clients he was charged with committing these crimes against were elderly or disabled folks.
Mr. Curtis bilked millions from about a dozen clients. His misdeeds included:
- Accessing millions in trust accounts and investment accounts belonging to special needs clients and transferring the funds to his personal account.
- Moving a special needs client to a cheaper facility so the client would have more money in their account that he could embezzle.
- Creating fake financial statements to submit to conservators to conceal his fraud.
Unfortunately, more than 3.5 million seniors were the victims of financial abuse or fraud last year. Most of these incidences, of course, were not perpetrated by the victim’s trusted attorney. In fact, many perpetrators are friends and family of the victim. Of the perpetrators that were strangers, the phone was the most common method of contact. If you or someone you know may be the victim of abuse as a senior or special needs person, contact the local authorities or click here for information regarding Adult Protective Services in your area.
As an elder law attorney, it's important to hear about cases like this one. We recently hosted a 30-minute webinar to review recent cases impacting the elder law industry around the country. We provided links to the holdings in the course materials so you have those tools at your fingertips should you face similar concerns in your practice. Watch the recording now!