Disciplinary Actions Prepared by The Florida Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services DepartmentThe Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 34 attorneys, disbarring 12, suspending 14, and placing three on probation. Seven attorneys were reprimanded and four were ordered to pay restitution. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline.The following lawyers are disciplined: Alexander Osondu Akpodiete, 242 Southern Main Road, Marabella, Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Akpodiete failed to keep required minimum trust accounting records, which resulted in an overdrawn trust account. There is no evidence of missing client funds and no evidence of client harm as a result of Akpodiete’s actions in this case. (Case No. SC07-1193) Richard Salvatore Amari,490 Sail Lane, Apt. 401B, Merritt Island, suspended,effective 30 days from an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) In 2005, Amari was arrested and later charged with driving under the influence and possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. In 2007, Amari was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. In February, Amari pled guilty in both cases to drug possession, third-degree felonies and was sentenced to two years probation with drug offender conditions. (Case No. SC08-654) Carol Cobourn Asbury, 248 N. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, following an April 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Asbury was an escrow agent for a real estate deal that never closed. In August 2005, an attorney contacted Asbury requesting the release of a $100,000 deposit to his client. Asbury admitted that she had no knowledge of the $100,000 and she had not authorized a non-lawyer employee to write an escrow letter verifying receipt of the money. Asbury pled guilty to failure to properly supervise the employee and failure to respond to The Florida Bar’s inquiries regarding the case. She also failed to appear before The Florida Bar’s grievance committee and produce requested records. (Case No. SC07-1961) Michael Lester Berry Jr., 258 Magnolia St., Atlantic Beach, suspended for one year,effective retroactive to Oct. 1, 2007, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) In 2004, Berry was retained by a client for a contract dispute regarding commercial property. In several instances, Berry neglected to inform the client of the status of the case, nor did he inform the client of filings or provide copies of the filings. He also failed to appear for court hearings and inform his clients of them, and neglected to respond in writing to official inquiries. (Case No. SC07-1624) Tricia-Ann Abigail Blair, 18350 NW 2 nd A ve., Suite 500, Miami, disbarred,effective 30 days from an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Blair represented a client in the sale of property in Georgia and accepted $34,000 as a deposit. She then disbursed a portion of the funds to her client and a broker despite the fact that no closing took place and there was no transfer of title. Blair has since failed to provide complete trust account records and failed to account for the balance of the funds. (Case No. SC08-633) J. Gordon Blau, 815 Orienta Ave., Suite 3, Altamonte Springs, placed on probation for one year, effective immediately, following a March 20 court order. ( Admitted to practice: 1978) Blau failed to enter into a rehabilitation contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance during his two-year probation ordered by the Florida Supreme Court in 2005. (Case No. SC07-393) Steven C. Blinn, 4936 Lake Sharp Drive, Orlando, suspended until further order of the court, following a March 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) The Florida Bar petition for emergency suspension states that in February, Blinn was arrested on multiple felony charges, including grand theft, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and sale and delivery of cocaine. In November 2007, the circuit court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit removed Blinn as guardian for a property worth more than $40,000 because he neglected his required duties. Between Dec. 27, 2007, and Feb. 5, 2008, the Bar received seven insufficient fund notices on Blinn’s trust account in which he testified that he had deposited the guardianship funds. On Feb. 25, the Bar received a complaint from a couple alleging that Blinn had provided them with a settlement check of $13,511.89 that was returned for insufficient funds. (Case No. SC08-427) Dominic G. Bocco Jr., 2220 Hillcrest St., Orlando, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) In two separate cases, Bocco represented clients in personal injury cases. In both instances, Bocco received settlement money on behalf of the clients, but neglected to disburse the money as directed. An audit revealed that Bocco improperly commingled client funds with his own funds. Bocco also failed to provide a required written response to The Florida Bar regarding the cases. (Case No. SC07-1495) Vanessa Bravo, 3301 SW 189 th A ve., Miramar, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) In July 2005, Bravo pled no contest to a misdemeanor charge of making improper campaign contributions. She donated $120 in the names of six different people on behalf of a county commission candidate. In a separate incident, Bravo was sanctioned by the Florida Elections Commission for certifying that her campaign treasurer’s reports were correct, when they were not; for incurring an expense without sufficient funds in her account; for accepting campaign contributions in excess of the legal limits; and for failing to report contributions that were required to be reported. (Case No. SC08-636) Anna L. Brown, P.O. Box 1504, Naples, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from a Jan. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Two cousins charged with felonies visited Brown’s office together and signed retainer agreements presented to them by Brown’s paralegal. One of the men paid $700 and agreed to pay $250 a month until the $3,500 fee for his representation was paid. Brown actively represented one client but failed to diligently represent him or communicate with him. Brown accepted money from the other client, appeared in court and filed pleadings for him, but she never personally told him that another lawyer was representing him. Because the cousins’ interests were directly adverse, Brown’s representing both of them was improper. (Case No. SC04-2119) Julio Cesar Cavero, 701 SW 27 th A ve., Suite 702, Miami, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors and placed on probation for three years, effective immediately, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Cavero pled guilty to failure to maintain minimum required records of deposits, original and cancelled checks and other documentary support for the disbursement of trust fund accounts. Cavero also failed to reconcile the trust account monthly and annually and failed to provide a detailed annual list of discrepancies in the trust account. No misappropriations occurred. (Case No. SC08-635) Isabel Vals Colleran, 9330 SW 104 th A ve., Miami, to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors and directed to attend a trust accounting workshop, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In August 2007, Colleran issued a check from her trust account to pay her Florida Bar dues. An audit of Colleran’s trust account revealed that she was commingling funds and using her trust account mostly for personal matters. No clients were harmed and no trust account funds were misappropriated. (Case No. SC08-632) Marty Earl Davis, 609 NE 127 th S t., North Miami, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Davis obtained a mortgage to refinance a personal residence. In several documents related to the purchase and the mortgage, Davis signed the name of a witness who was not present and did not authorize him to use his name. Davis also used the same individual’s notary stamp on one of the documents to verify his own signature, without consent. (Case No. SC09-634) Ruben L. De Leon, 561 NE 79th St., Suite 204, Miami, suspended until further order of the court, following a March 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) The Florida Bar petition for emergency suspension states that De Leon submitted 20 fraudulent final judgments for dissolution of marriage to a court. Twelve of the final judgments falsely purported to be signed by a particular judge. Three additional final judgments bore the forged signatures of three other judges and case numbers belonging to other matters. Several of the clients said they’d remitted fees to De Leon’s office, were subsequently advised by De Leon or an associate that their divorces were final and received proof of the final judgment of dissolution. All believed they were legally divorced. (Case No. SC08-491) Marc Francis Desiderio, 3100 N. Ocean Blvd., Apt. 1710, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred, retroactive to Oct. 22, 2007, following an April 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) In January 2006, Desiderio was indicted by a federal grand jury. In July 2007 he pled guilty to money laundering conspiracy. Desiderio was sentenced to 41 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. (Case No. SC07-1930) Edward Thomas Dinna, 719 Intracoastal Drive, Fort Lauderdale,to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors and directed to attend a trust accounting workshop, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Dinna was selected to take over a malpractice case after the original attorney was suspended from practicing law. Dinna hired the suspended attorney to work for him as a paralegal on the case, but failed to properly supervise him. In another case, Dinna took the videotaped deposition of a confidential informant (without effectively notifying the state) and allowed the criminal defendant (his client) to be present in violation of The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. He also attempted to intimidate the witnesses. Finally, Dinna failed to maintain required minimum trust accounting records. (Case Nos. SC07-1152, SC07-1156 and SC07-1161) Joseph Sailor Garwood, 3232 Albert Drive, Tallahassee, suspended effective 30 days from a May 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) In December 2007, Garwood was found guilty by a jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony, battery, and resisting an officer without violence. He was sentenced to 24 months probation. (Case No. SC08-838) Martin James Hannah,1515 N. University Drive, Suite 231, Coral Springs , disbarred, effective 30 days from an April 24 court order. ( Admitted to practice: 1981) Hannah has repeatedly failed to comply with Florida Bar rules, made false statements and engaged in deceptive practices. Since 2001, he misappropriated trust account funds and used the property of others for his own benefit. Hannah also engaged in a pattern of neglecting clients and failing to respond to communications from The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC07-2155) Theodore William Herzog,1101 Simonton St., Key West, disbarred,effective immediately, following an April 24 court order and ordered to pay restitution to all persons whose funds have been embezzled prior to seeking readmission. (Admitted to practice: 1972) In September 2005 , Herzog received $44,442.79 from a client to settle a labor dispute with 25 employees. He deposited the funds in his escrow account. Between October and December of that year, Herzog issued 19 checks from his client’s funds, made payable to himself, totaling $44,150.00 and leaving a balance of $114.55. Only two of his client’s employees were paid. An audit of Herzog’s records found similar occurrences involving numerous other clients. (Case No. SC08-199) Michael T. Kovach Sr.,105 N. Seminole Ave., Inverness, disbarred for 10 years, effective immediately, following an April 24 order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Kovach intentionally converted client funds for his personal use. Several transactions had no client identification associated with them and his wife, a non-lawyer, had signatory authority on the trust account. The overdrawn balance of Kovach’s ledger card totaled $77,968.12. (Case No. SC07-2214) Robert Joseph Locker,825 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, suspended for 36 months, effective retroactive to Sept. 20, 2007, following an April 24 order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) As a condition of reinstatement, Locker shall complete The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop. Upon reinstatement, Locker will be placed on probation for three years. Twelve cases were consolidated in the complaint before the court. Locker essentially abandoned his practice, failing to appear for court dates. He successfully completed residential treatment for substance abuse and is now in aftercare. Locker entered into a three-year contract in February with the Florida Lawyers Assistance program. (Case No. SC07-1962) Gary Mark Mills, 5732 Via De La Plata Circle, Delray Beach, suspended,effective 30 days from a May 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Mills pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, a felony. In April, Mills was sentenced to 46 months in prison. (Case No. SC08-833) Paul Richard Parker, 3203 Pleasant Hill Road, Lynn Haven, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a March 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) In September 2007, Parker pled guilty to three felony counts of using a child in a sexual performance and 75 related counts of child pornography. He was sentenced to 14 years incarceration, to be followed by 14 years probation. (Case No. SC07-2397) Jeffrey George Paster,80 Main St., West Orange, N.J., disbarred effective immediately, following an April 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1975) In March 2007, the Supreme Court of New Jersey disbarred Paster. One complainant accused Paster of failing to timely release trust funds. Another said Paster coerced her into loaning him $15,000 from her equitable distribution being held in his trust account. An investigative audit revealed that from March 2003 until August 2006, Paster misappropriated client funds for his own personal use. (Case No. SC07-2151) Juan Carlos Perez, 1568 Normandy Drive, Miami, suspended for six months, effective immediately, following an April 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) In September 2006, Perez was suspended for one year and ordered to accept no new business until the suspension expired. Despite the order from the Florida Supreme Court, Perez accepted new business in October 2006 and did not notify the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in Osceola County of his impending suspension until more than one month later. (Case No. SC07-415) Jerry Arthur Riggs Sr., 1926 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 314, Hollywood, disbarred, retroactive to May 7, 2005, following an April 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Riggs must also pay restitution of $2,000 to one client. In March 2006, Riggs was hired by a client for a real estate case, and was paid $2,000. In April 2005, Riggs was suspended from practicing law on an emergency basis in a separate matter. Riggs continued to practice law and neglected to immediately furnish his clients, opposing counsel and the courts with a copy of his suspension order. As of the effective date of his suspension, Riggs had also failed to perform the services for which he was paid. (Case No. SC07-1125) Joseph Raymond Rowe Jr.,P.O. Box 272066, Tampa, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from an April 24 order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) In March 2006 the Florida Supreme Court suspended Rowe for 30 days and placed him on probation for two years. Rowe was to attend ethics school within six months of the date of the order and to undergo an office procedures and record-keeping analysis under the direction of the Law Office Management Assistance Service of The Florida Bar. Rowe neglected to attend ethics school and failed to contact LOMAS to schedule a review. (Case No. SC07-956) Robert Alvarez Rudolph, 8027 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, disbarred, effective immediately, following a March 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Rudolph will also pay restitution of $2,500 to one client. In June 2005, Rudolph was paid $2,500 by a couple as a retainer to file a post-conviction motion. In November of the same year, Rudolph spoke with the clients and told them that a post conviction motion was being finalized and would be filed shortly. It was never filed. The clients made numerous requests for Rudolph to provide billing invoices, but Rudolph neglected to do so. He has a past discipline history of three admonishments and two suspensions. (Case No. SC07-364) David Jon Russ,7200 SW 8th Ave., Apt. 86, Gainesville, suspended effective immediately, following an April 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Russ was found guilty of a third- degree felony, driving under the influence — the third in 10 years, as well as three related misdemeanors. Russ is currently serving a three-year suspension as a result of another case. (Case No. SC08-691) Scott Alan Salomon, 11555 Heron Bay Blvd., Suite 200, Coral Springs,to receive a public reprimand from The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, following an April 17 court order. ( Admitted to practice: 1992) Salomon pled guilty to failing to diligently represent his client. On numerous occasions, Salomon failed to appear at court proceedings for the client, even those he scheduled. (Case No. SC07-50) Steven M. Siegel, 2814 N. 46th Ave., Apt. H677, Hollywood, suspended effective 30 days from the date of a March 24 order. ( Admitted to practice: 1995) In February, in the circuit court of the 15th Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County), Siegel was found guilty of one count of attempt to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child using an Internet service to commit a sexual offense, a felony. (Case No. SC08-548) Kristine W. Valentine-Miller, 204 NW 3rd. Ave., Ocala, disbarred following a Jan. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) In June 2006, Valentine-Miller was suspended on an emergency basis, and in October, 2006, The Florida Bar filed an amended complaint against her, alleging more than 20 violations. Valentine-Miller is accused of using client funds and failing to manage her accounts properly. During 2004 and 2005, she neglected numerous clients by failing to diligently pursue their cases. Her poor record-keeping and maintenance of files, many of which are missing, made it impossible to determine the exact total of client funds converted. An audit by The Florida Bar for February 2004 to February 2006 determined that the total owed clients was no less than $31,416.41 and no more than $51.291.41. (Case No. SC06-1629) Stephen Leonard Ziegler,1401 E. Broward Blvd., Suite 200, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) In September 2007, Ziegler was found guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, a felony. Ziegler was sentenced to 60 months in prison and three years probation. He was ordered by the trial court to pay restitution of $826,839,642. (Case No. SC07-1929) Carl K. Zolezzi, Jr.,199 Tyler Ave., Apt. 2, Cape Canaveral, suspended for one year, effective retroactively to November 29, 2007, following an April 17 court order, and ordered to pay restitution of $2,500 to a client. (Admitted to practice: 1974) In January 2006, Zolezzi was retained by a client regarding a criminal matter and paid $2,500. In February 2006, Zolezzi was arrested on charges of sale and possession of cocaine. Thereafter, Zolezzi performed minimal work on his client’s behalf. The client retained new counsel to handle the matter and requested a full refund. In September, Zolezzi pled no contest to felony cocaine possession. (Case No. SC07-2217) Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. June 1, 2008 Disciplinary Actions June 1, 2008 Disciplinary Actions
Arizonans have spent the last three years digging out of a deep recession, and from what we’re seeing in the residential communities we manage, the worst may not be over.Expert data backs up this observation. A huge portion of the state’s homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. The good news is that Arizona’s rate of negative equity has actually dropped since last year. The bad news: the drop is attributed to more homeowners losing their houses to foreclosure.By now, most everyone has heard the familiar advice about what cash-strapped individuals should do when they find themselves in over their heads with home mortgage payments or credit card bills. They’re encouraged to talk to the lender or credit card companies and try to work out a payment plan, right?But, most people don’t realize this counsel also holds true for HOAs and community management companies. In most cases, HOAs are eager to work out payment options with homeowners, operating under the belief that some money coming in is better than no money at all.HOAs are non-profit corporations that use income from homeowners’ dues to pay for everything from common area upkeep and clubhouse operations to private streets and street lighting, depending on the community and the terms laid out in its governing documents. The theory is that if everyone pays their designated share, the community is able to operate at a level that not only preserves appearances, but maintains property values as well.Since the recession hit, HOA membership fees seem to fall last on the list of bills to pay when homeowners are scrimping to pay mortgages and other necessities. Assessment delinquency rates that once hovered around five percent during the real estate boom years have shot up to 15 percent to 20 percent. Like most businesses, HOAs are not structured to bear year after year of declining income.If you are facing foreclosure on your home, or are struggling financially, here are two simple things you can do. First, understand that as a member of an HOA, you are still responsible for paying your assessment fees, even if you move out of the home. You are obligated to make payments until the transfer of the home’s title.Second, pick up the phone and call your HOA or community management company. Ask for help. Most HOAs and management companies have been empowered by their associations’ boards of directors to work out payment plans that can suit everybody.The Great Recession has touched us all in some way — whether personally or by affecting someone we know. If you give us a chance to help, we all win.We aren’t here to judge. We’re all on the same team.[stextbox id=”grey”]About AAMAAM’s system of community support has provided more personal attention and expert care per customer dollar than any other homeowners’ association management team for over 20 years. Better workload ratios and the longevity of AAM managers ensure each community will be managed by an industry leader who will treat it as their own. Homeowners can expect all AAM professionals to be able to answer the same 193 community management-related questions and to attend HOA meetings in person. A 24/7 emergency pager is just one example of AAM’s daily dedication to developing lasting client relationships and delivering peace of mind. For more information, visit www.AAMAZ.com.[/stextbox]
A second hand clothing market in Tanzania. Millions of Tanzanians rely on the clothing due to financial constraints.Tanzania has rolled back a ban on the importation of second hand clothing in the country, joining four other East African countries that had banned the clothing in reverting their decisions.Access to second hand clothes from the U.S. was made possible under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.The East African region accounts for 22 per cent of the U.S. second hand textiles industry exports.A ban on such imports was however proposed by East African heads of state, prompting condemnation from vendors of the clothes.For many of them, the second hand clothing business was their sole source of income and as such, ought to have been protected by the governments rather than scrapped off.Their concerns were shared by millions in the East African countries, who said they were unable to afford new clothing and as such had to rely on the second hand clothing that were much cheaper.It is however hoped that the second hand clothes will still be banned in the future, but Tanzania should fist develop and boost its own textile industry.