Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Akron Attorney Who Aided Clients’ Tax Evasion Suspended

The Ohio Supreme Court today issued a two-year suspension to an Akron attorney convicted of assisting a couple in their attempt to evade paying outstanding federal taxes.

The Supreme Court suspended Gregory T. Plesich and credited him for time served since the Court’s initial interim suspension of him in June 2018. His suspension will now end in June 2020. The Court’s per curiam opinion noted that Plesich provided the couple no legal services and collected no fees regarding  the transactions that led to the crime and he admitted that his actions were “100 percent wrong.”

Justices Judith L. French, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Patrick F. Fischer dissented, stating they would not grant Plesich credit for the time served.

Lawyer’s Account Used to Pass Money
In 2009, Plesich began representing Lawrence and Angela Tipton in a dispute with the IRS. Plesich subsequently received notices from the IRS regarding the Tiptons’ outstanding tax liabilities and attempts to collect from either one or both of the Tiptons.

In 2013, Lawrence Tipton gave Plesich a check of nearly $118,000 from a property sale, which Plesich placed in his client trust account. A month later, Tipton gave him a $79,000 check from an insurance claim, which he placed in the account. Over the next year, Plesich authorized 29 checks to be written from his trust account made payable to Angela Tipton for amounts ranging from $3,000 to $7,500. Plesich testified that he accepted and disbursed the money without questioning the Tiptons or discussing the purpose of the transactions.

In 2017, the federal government charged Plesich with willfully aiding and abetting his clients in their attempt to evade federal taxes. After a four-day trial, a jury convicted Plesich. In June 2018, he was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $197,000 in restitution, a $10,000 fine, and a $100 assessment. Plesich paid them all.

The Court placed Plesich under an interim felony suspension based on the conviction. Shortly after, the Akron Bar Association filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct, charging Plesich with violating several rules governing the conduct of Ohio lawyers.

Plesich and the bar association stipulated that he engaged or assisted a client in conduct he knew was illegal or fraudulent; committed an illegal act reflecting on his honesty and trustworthiness; and engaged in conduct involving dishonest, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The parties proposed Plesich be suspended for two years with credit for time served under the interim suspension.

Board Considers Recommended Sanction, Court Agrees
When the board considers a sanction to recommend to the Court, it considers aggravating circumstances that could increase the penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a lesser sanction. 

The board found Plesich engaged in a pattern of misconduct by issuing 29 checks and misused his client trust account in the course of criminal conduct. The board also noted that Plesich had no prior discipline in his 46-year legal career, lacked a selfish motive, and did not receive any benefit from the transactions with the Tiptons. The board also found Plesich made full disclosure of his action, cooperated with the disciplinary proceedings, and received criminal sanctions for his misconduct.

The Court’s opinion noted that Plesich did not attempt to evade his own tax liabilities or personally benefit from his actions. And the Court noted that the board considered that the federal court determined he did not deserve prison time and that he fully paid his financial penalties when it crafted its recommended sanction.

2019-0806. Akron Bar Assn. v. Plesich, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-4843.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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