Friday, September 18, 2009

Betrayed by Crooked Attorneys

They called him Jack.

They didn't think of him as a lawyer. They thought of him as a trusted family friend.

So when thousands of dollars went missing and the paper trail led to attorney John "Jack" Roberts of Dennis, they were at first shocked, then hurt and finally angry.

Roberts, now disbarred, pleaded guilty to stealing $137,000 from the estate of Alice May of Sandwich and was sentenced to house arrest. On Friday, he was arraigned on a charge of larceny by a single scheme in the theft of $650,000 from Norm Sasville, a Middleboro builder. Prosecutors said they plan to seek jail time if Roberts is convicted again.

"He pulled the carpet out from me," Sasville said in an interview before Roberts was indicted. "He was a good friend. He was a goombah."

Roberts was released on $1,000 bail after his arraignment in Barnstable Superior Court on Friday.

But Roberts is not alone.

In recent years, the Cape has had its share of high-profile cases involving lawyers bilking clients out of thousands.

In 2006, Anthony Bott, an Orleans attorney, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $350,000 in insurance settlements from 12 clients.

He was sentenced to 2½ years in Barnstable County Correctional Facility and 10 years of probation.

And plenty of ink has been spilled on the ongoing tangle of former Orleans attorney Richard Birchall. Birchall has been jailed on contempt charges, a judge finding that he is capable of repaying the $2.7 million he owes to his former client Suzanne D'Amour of Brewster.

But while that case has the added intrigue of D'Amour once spending time in jail on perjury charges for lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of her husband, the other Cape cases involve regular Joes or elderly people looking for legal help from someone they trusted.

"It really is disgusting," said Adele Lundquist, an 83-year-old Brewster woman who was a victim of Bott. "It's like your house getting broke into. It's a violation."

Lundquist was seriously injured in a car accident. Her car was sideswiped by a woman who blew through a stop sign. Her family attorney recommended Bott, who at the time was considered one of the Lower Cape's top personal injury attorneys.

Months passed and Bott kept putting Lundquist off telling her settlements could take years. It turned out he got her an $85,000 settlement within months, but like 11 other clients, he had fraudulently signed her name and pocketed the cash.

"You go through stages where you feel betrayed, you feel hurt, you feel angry," Lundquist said.

Nancy Allen, whose inheritance was partially stolen by Roberts, expressed similar feelings. Her mother, Alice May, had considered Roberts a friend. She said it felt like she had been "physically assaulted" when she figured out Roberts had grabbed the money to feed his gambling habit.

So are these high-profile cases a trend or just a strange coincidence?

Michael Frederickson, a spokesman for the state's Board of Bar Overseers, said it's the latter.

The percentage of bad lawyers is actually very small, he said, with only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the state's 80,000 lawyers convicted of stealing from a client. But like other professions involving the public, it's the bad attorneys who get the attention, he said.

Full Article and Source:
Cape Cod Betrayed by Crooked Attorneys


StandUp said...

I am pleased to see this article.

Lawyers like to stand up and say they are ethical as they point to family and malign them.

Yes, some lawyers are ethical.

And some are crooks.

The crooks need to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

It's not the bad attorneys who get the attention. That's the problem.

The bad attorneys usually get off and they're free to do it all over again.

If the spotlight was bright regarding all the corruption, it might clean up.

Norma said...

The first sentence sums up the problem: people think of lawyers as their friend.

Lawyers are not your friend. They work for you. They are not your friend.

Anonymous said...

I hope these good for nothings get what they deserve!

Anonymous said...

John "Jack" Roberts, you are a disgrace to the profession and a disgrace to humanity as well.

Anonymous said...

Roberts not only should be jailed, he should be forced to pay back every cent, plus a penalty.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers are predators - beware!

Anonymous said...

This is why there are so many lawyer jokes - these crooked attorneys are jokes, but they're not funny.

I am sorry for all the victims.

Anonymous said...

How does anyone know who is honest? who is dishonest? If anyone has the answser, please post it here because I sure would like to know before I get tangled up with a crook. The honest lawyers must be fuming over stories that casts a dark shadow on the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

I must have been very lucky to have found and worked with a real stand up type of guy, a lawyer who was honest and I know he did not take advantage of me when I was at the worst point in my life. I think I'm feeling so darned lucky, I'm going to church Sunday and donate big cause it could have turned out really bad.

Anonymous said...

The key word here in Frederickerson's statement about the one quarter of one percent of the state's 80,000 lawyers being bad is "CONVICTED".

How many don't even get charged, Mr. Frederickerson?

File a complaint on a lawyer and see what happens -- it gets swiftly dismissed.

Anonymous said...

There's honest lawyers?

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are honest, hardworking lawyers; I am not a lawyer; I do not work for lawyers.

I have a short list of lawyers that proved to me and others that they are heads above the rest and a rare find.

I was able to locate and retain lawyers with high ethical standards in their search for the truth with money for their services not at the top of their list as a prerequisite for taking cases to satisfactory conclusions.