Since November, attorney Randy Wynn has been telling pretty much everybody he was a thief.
He has fessed up to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, the state Office of Lawyer Regulation, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge and the Journal Sentinel, which in January reported that Wynn acknowledged pocketing client funds. In an interview last week, the 60-year-old lawyer said the amount he took in the past few years is "estimated to be under $1 million, over $500,000 but spread over hundreds of clients."
"I'm expecting to be charged, and I'll probably be in prison," Wynn testified last month in a bankruptcy hearing for one of his former clients. "What I did was wrong. I deserve whatever punishment I get."
A partial accounting that Wynn gave to regulators in May "showed that Wynn had taken $784,734 from numerous clients," Keith Sellen, director of the Office of Lawyer Regulation, wrote in a report filed with the state Supreme Court last month. "Wynn estimated his ... partial accounting was '90% complete.'"
Still, Wynn remains a licensed lawyer — he participated in a courtroom conference call just a month ago — and is in the center of a testy bankruptcy fight in which his testimony has gotten a former client in hot water. During the bankruptcy hearing, Jonathan Goodman, the bankruptcy attorney for Wynn's former client, referred to Wynn as a "lying snake" and a "lying weasel."
Wynn's case provides insight into the glacial speed of Wisconsin's secretive attorney regulatory process, a system in which the time between the receipt of a complaint about a lawyer and court action on that complaint can take years.
Wynn is not the only attorney who has kept his law license after admitting to committing felonies involving clients. Grafton lawyer Richard Kranitz remains a member of the state bar, even though three months ago he agreed in federal court to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Kranitz was arrested in December 2011; this month he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
Like Wynn, Kranitz is listed as being in good standing on the state bar's lawyer search website as well as the one operated by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the policing arm of the state Supreme Court.
On June 19 — about seven months after Wynn says he first told regulators and prosecutors of his thievery — the Office of Lawyer Regulation filed Wynn's petition for voluntary revocation of his law license.
The petition is pending before the state Supreme Court.
William Weigel, the OLR's litigation counsel, defended the pace of the agency's investigations.
"The lawyer regulation process is rules-based, accurate and thorough," Weigel wrote in an email. "... If OLR is perceived sometimes as not publicly jumping on a case from the get-go, well, we place a premium on getting it done right rather than rushing to get it done quickly."
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Attorney who admitted theft still has law license