Hubbard Attorney Permanently Disbarred
The Ohio Supreme Court today permanently disbarred a Trumbull County attorney who participated in a scheme to conceal more than $850,000 of a client’s marital assets from the client’s husband before and during divorce proceedings.
David K. Roland of Hubbard, who was already under suspension from practicing law in Ohio for failure to register as an attorney, was disciplined based on the asset-hiding scheme and other violations of the rules governing the behavior of attorneys. In a unanimous per curiam decision, the Supreme Court noted that aside from responding to complaints brought by the Trumbull County Bar Association, Roland did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings.
“We have consistently recognized that when an attorney’s neglect of legal matters is coupled with a failure to cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigation, an indefinite suspension is warranted,” the opinion stated. “However, when such conduct is accompanied by the misappropriation of client funds and fraudulent or dishonest conduct, as it is here, we have held that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.”
Funds Diverted to Swiss and Caribbean Accounts
The bar association brought complaints against Roland to the Board of Professional Conduct based on interactions with four clients, including his representation of Denise Carradine in her divorce from Eric Martin. Roland failed to comply with bar association requests for discovery and with the orders of the chairperson of a board three-member panel assigned to hear the complaints.
The panel considered Roland’s failure to respond to the bar association’s requests for admissions as an admission to the bar association allegations. The association claimed Carradine paid Roland about $854,000 from August 2006 to April 2009 using a regular pattern of withdrawing cash from her business and personal accounts in amounts of less than $10,000. The Court concluded that was evidence of purposely structuring the transactions to avoid detection under banking laws.
The funds were deposited into two of Roland’s client trust accounts, and $814,000 was wire-transferred to an account at Maerki Baumann & Co. in Zurich, in which Carradine had a beneficial interest. Banking records demonstrated that a portion of those funds was transferred to another account located in the Turks & Caicos Islands during her divorce proceedings.
By 2013, all of Carradine’s funds had been removed from Roland’s trust accounts in a Pennsylvania bank, and he had $709 in an Ohio bank account of which $643 of it came from a 2015 deposit unrelated to Carradine’s case. The Court noted that Roland has failed to account for $40,155 of the funds Carradine deposited in his trust accounts.
Based on the panel’s findings, the professional conduct board determined Roland committed several violations including the prohibition of a lawyer from counseling a client to engage, or assisting a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal or fraudulent. The board also found Roland failed to hold a client’s property in an interest-bearing account separate from the lawyer’s own property, and failed to hold funds in which two or more persons claim an interest until the dispute is resolved. He also engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, the board concluded.
Roland Failed to Perform Legal Services
In separate matters, the board found two clients each paid $750 retainers to Roland to file lawsuits. The clients filed grievances with the bar association regarding Roland, and a bar investigator found that nothing had been initiated in the courts where Roland could have filed the lawsuits. Roland failed to respond to the investigator’s letters and when the investigator called Roland, he stated he was with clients and abruptly hung up.
Those retainers had been removed from Roland’s trust account, and the board found that Roland violated the rules for failing to act with reasonable diligence on a client matter and prohibiting a lawyer from withdrawing advance legal fees from the client trust account until the fees are earned or expenses incurred. He also knowingly failed to respond to demands for information from a disciplinary authority, the board found.
Board Recommends Disbarment
The board considers aggravating and mitigating factors before recommending an appropriate sanction. It found the only mitigating factors that would lean toward a less severe punishment were that Roland had no prior disciplinary record, and had no dishonest or selfish motive with respect to a fourth violation against him for not informing a client that he did not have the required amount of professional liability insurance.
“As aggravating factors, the board found that Roland acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, engaged in a pattern of misconduct over a period of years, committed multiple offenses, failed to cooperate in the disciplinary process, failed to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his misconduct, caused harm to vulnerable persons — particularly Martin — and made no effort to make restitution,” the Court wrote.
The board cited several cases where the Court permanently disbarred attorneys who engaged in misconduct comparable to that of Roland’s, and the Court concluded disbarment was the appropriate sanction for him. He was also assessed for the cost of the proceedings.
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