Two Attorneys Suspended Indefinitely from Practice of Law
The Ohio Supreme Court today ordered the indefinite suspensions of two real estate attorneys for violating rules of professional conduct.
Court sanctions Canfield attorney who participated in mortgage conspiracy
Canfield attorney Michael J. Wagner played a part in the submission of false loan applications when he was the title agent for seven real estate transactions in 2005 and 2006 in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. His misconduct was part of a scheme orchestrated by Romero Minor, who negotiated the purchase of properties at one price, then had unknowing “straw buyers/investors” buy the properties at a much higher price. Minor then kept the difference.
Wagner prepared documents for the transactions and eventually became suspicious about the purchases but did not report his concerns. He later pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Once notified of Wagner’s conviction, the Supreme Court placed him on an interim felony suspension in January 2012.
In today’s 4-3 per curiam (not authored by a specific justice) decision, the court adopted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, which determined that Wagner engaged in dishonest or fraudulent conduct and in actions prejudicial to the administration of justice. Noting that it has indefinitely suspended attorneys for misconduct resulting in a felony conviction in many recent disciplinary opinions, the court imposed the same in this case, but gave Wagner credit for the time he has served during his interim suspension. As a result, Wagner will be permitted to request reinstatement from the court in January 2014 if he meets certain conditions.
Joining the court’s majority were Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Judith L. French, and William O’Neill.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in the indefinite suspension but stated they would not grant credit to Wagner for the time he has served under the felony suspension.
Mayfield Heights attorney who cashed client refund checks receives indefinite suspension
The court also determined today that James C. Wrentmore of Mayfield Heights violated several professional conduct rules when he mishandled funds in four cases and did not pay for continuing legal education (CLE) seminars. Wrentmore, whose clients included homeowner associations in real estate matters, received four refund checks in 2010 from courts in cases he handled while working at a different law firm. The checks ranged from $5 to more than $2,600. Instead of notifying and delivering the money to the appropriate parties whom he had represented, Wrentmore either cashed the check, or he deposited the check into his personal checking account and kept part of the amount in cash. After his new firm fired him for mishandling funds in one matter, Wrentmore repaid that refund check to his prior law firm. Following an investigation, he also paid back the other amounts.
Also, in April 2011, Wrentmore attended five CLE courses sponsored by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). For the first three events, he told staff he had preregistered and prepaid when he had not. He wrote checks for the last two classes, and the checks bounced. Many months later, after the OSBA asked the court’s CLE commission to revoke his CLE hours for nonpayment, Wrentmore paid the bill for the seminars.
The Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline recommended that the court indefinitely suspend Wrentmore, in part so he could finish his contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) and keep receiving counseling and treatment for depression.
The court unanimously adopted the board’s sanction of an indefinite suspension. If Wrentmore seeks reinstatement, he must show that he has complied with his OLAP contract, the court stated in its per curiam decision.
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