The Florida Bar News is reporting that another lawyer has been suspended for engaging in marketing with non-lawyers. The claims made in the case sound incredibly similar to those in both the mass joinder and attorney model debt settlement activities.
In this case, William Timothy O’Toole with Summit Legal was allegedly working in conjunction with non-Lawyers Randy Baker and Solomon Macari (source) and splitting fees received for loan modification work.
It is reported that “At one time, Randy Baker, Solomon Macari, and Aren Anderton were park of another fraud called Baker, Kennedy, and Associates. This firm, since disolved, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Florida Attorney General on April 13. If you wish to find out about the lawsuit and update the AG on your experiences with Summit Legal, call Carol DeGraffenreidt at 561-837-5000 ext. 124.” – Source
I’m not certain about the lawsuit being filed but I was able to confirm the firm is under investigation by the Economic Crimes Division of the office of the Florida Attorney General. – Source
The Florida Supreme Court action against William O’Toole discovered that O’Toole admits to having “between 2,500 and 3,000 clients from that illegal arrangement, and admitted he has so many files he does not know the status of the clients’ cases.” – Source
According to the petition, the lawyer was deposed on June 28 and admitted his law firm represents homeowners in loan modifications and foreclosure defense.
Since at least March 2010, the Bar’s investigation found, the lawyer associated with a nonlawyer who is the subject of a complaint brought by the Office of the Attorney General, alleging the nonlawyer “engaged in a systematic pattern of conduct designed and intended to induce consumers to purchase their loan modification and foreclosure-related services via a series of false and fraudulent representations.”
According to the Bar’s investigation, the lawyer allowed nonlawyers to “improperly solicit clients on his behalf for loan modifications and foreclosure defense on a nationwide basis, despite the fact that he can only practice law in the state of Florida.”
The lawyer admitted that he is aware that nonlawyers buy leads that provided names of potential clients for his law firm, according to the petition, and that he was aware that “nonlawyers telephoned potential clients to solicit their business by promising them results, such as a rate reduction on their loans.”
The lawyer split fees with nonlawyers, including paying one nonlawyer $21,000 of the $26,000 fees the lawyer was paid by another law firm to take over their cases, according to the petition, and the lawyer admitted he does not supervise or train any of the nonlawyers who worked on his clients’ files.
The lawyer “admits that he allows almost exclusive control of the office to the nonlawyers who control all the contact with the client from the initial call, to the fee agreement, to negotiations with the bank, and then advising the client of the outcome of their case,” according to the Bar’s petition.
The lawyer “admits his clients are charged between $1,500 and $3,000 up front, and that the nonlawyers determine the fee that will be charged. Respondent admits he becomes involved in his clients’ cases when the client needs representation in foreclosure defense,” according to the petition.