By John Caniglia
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Pepper Pike attorney accused earlier this year of misappropriating more than $1.1 million of her clients’ money faces additional charges involving her taxes.
Dorothea Kingsbury is accused in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court of failing to file state tax returns since 2014. The allegations are in addition to charges that she withdrew money from her clients’ accounts without their knowledge, according to court records.
All but one of the 22 clients in the case are developmentally disabled, and many cannot read or write.
Kingsbury was originally scheduled to go to trial in August on charges of theft, fraud and money laundering, but the case was pushed back. Prosecutors obtained an indictment on the tax charges in October. The cases are set for trial in April before Judge Dick Ambrose.
Her attorney, Larry Zukerman, said the new charges are an attempt to pressure Kingsbury.
“This is a classic case of overcharging,” Zukerman said. “Prosecutors, on the eve of trial, filed additional charges against Ms. Kingsbury, which appear on the surface to be a coercive tactic to force her into a plea bargain.
“Ms. Kingsbury denied the allegations at her arraignment and plans to aggressively defend against the allegations at trial.”
Prosecutors said they did not bring the charges to push Kingsbury into a plea deal. Rather, they said, the charges stem from a continuing investigation.
“Upon learning of an active [IRA] account owned by the defendant, [prosecutors] charged Kingsbury with new offenses that were not discovered until months after the first indictment,” prosecutors said in an emailed statement.
The charges “address the criminal conduct and allow for the protection and forfeiture of the funds for victims’ restitution,” the statement said.
An indictment filed in February says Kingsbury, 67, made more than 200 questionable shifts of funds, or transactions that cannot be explained.
Prosecutors and investigators said Kingsbury withdrew and transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years from the accounts of clients to conceal what she had taken from others, including more than $110,000 that she took for herself.
What she did with the misappropriated funds is unclear, those authorities said.
Kingsbury is free on $10,000 bond. If convicted, she could sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
Besides the criminal case, a lawsuit has been filed against Kingsbury. The family of Janis Paul, a Cleveland woman with a severe mental impairment, filed suit in September 2018 against Kingsbury in Cuyahoga County Probate Court, demanding an accounting of her trust.
Records show Kingsbury had served as trustee to the trust from July 30, 2011, to Jan. 26, 2015. Investigators found Kingsbury made 50 questionable transfers from Paul’s account for nearly $300,000, according to records prosecutors filed. The case in probate court is pending.
In most of the cases in the indictment, Kingsbury served as a trustee of special-needs trusts. The trusts often are set up by families or guardians to provide money for basic purchases or needs to a person with disabilities. In many cases, families hired Kingsbury to oversee the accounts.
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Additional charges against Pepper Pike attorney accused of misappropriating funds: Update