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    July 18, 2018

    Good News, Bad News: $373K Reimbursed for Lawyer Theft

    The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee reimbursed 19 victims of lawyer theft over the past year.

    July 18, 2018 – This year has been one of good news and bad news for the victims of lawyer theft, says Steve Chiquoine, chair of the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Committee.

    The good news: Through the Fund for Client Protection, 19 clients were reimbursed for claims totaling more than $373,000.

    The bad news: The clients’ money was misappropriated or stolen by just 10 Wisconsin lawyers, says Chiquoine.

    And this year's reimbursements, are an increase of roughly 10 percent over the previous year, 2016-17. “Unfortunately, we see no sign of claims tapering off,” he said.

    The Details: Claims for 2017-18

    Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, the committee considered 71 claims, and approved reimbursements totaling $373,038 to victims of 10 attorneys.

    Recent claims were approved for clients of:

    • Jeffrey M. Blessinger: six claims totaling $13,578
    • William T. Croke: one claim totaling $510
    • Jeffrey Elverman: one claim totaling $150,000
    • Michael Krill: one claim totaling $147,000
    • Sarah E.K. Laux: four claims totaling $11,900
    • Michael E. O’Rourke: one claim totaling $3,262
    • Phillip Ramthun: one claim totaling $3,634
    • Philip A. Shepherd: one claim totaling $622
    • Cole White: two claims totaling $7,000
    • Randy Wynn: one claim totaling $35,530

    The claims include reimbursements for:

    • Misappropriation of funds: two claims totaling $39,165
    • Unearned advanced fees: 15 claims totaling $36,822
    • Theft by investment: one claim totaling $147,000

    Recapturing Trust

    Making clients whole again after they become victims of lawyer theft is very important, Chiquoine says.

    “There is no greater feeling than to have someone whose trust was shattered by an attorney recapture some of that trust when they find that Wisconsin lawyers, as a group, are there to help make them whole,” said Chiquoine, who has served on the committee for nearly 16 years.

    Stephen Chiquoine

    Stephen Chiquoine

    “I know I speak for my fellow committee members when I say that serving on this committee is one of the highlights of our professional lives,” he said.

    About the Fund for Client Protection

    The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, created by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1981, reimburses clients who incur financial losses from the dishonest conduct of their attorneys.

    “Without this committee and the contributions paid by every member of the State Bar, hundreds of people would have lost millions of dollars due to the dishonesty or misfeasance of their attorney,” Chiquoine said.

    Wisconsin lawyers share in the efforts to make victims whole: A portion of every member’s State Bar dues finances the fund, with the amount of the assessment determined by the committee each year by Supreme Court Rule. For 2018-19, that amount was $20.

    “I personally want to thank each and every Wisconsin lawyer for their contribution to this cause,” Chiquoine said. “Please be sure to refer anyone who may have a claim to the committee.”

    Compensating Victims of Lawyer Misconduct

    Since 1981, more than $6 million has been returned to nearly 900 victims of lawyer misconduct in Wisconsin.

    Each claim is individually investigated, and reimbursement decisions are made at the discretion of the committee, which meets three times a year. Some of the money is returned to the fund via court-ordered restitution or voluntary payments from the lawyers who have approved claims against them.

    For more information about the fund, contact Bryant Park, or call (800) 444-9404, ext. 6083, or (608) 250-6083.

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