CSB-2008-077 James S. Gregson, Saugus, MA (Disbarred)
Claimant retained Mr. Gregson to defend her against a three-count indictment in March 2004 for the November 2003 arson of her father’s home. At the time, claimant owned a home and faced possible legal action by her father’s casualty insurer because of the arson damage. With the prospect of a prison sentence looming, claimant approached Mr. Gregson to assist her with the sale of her home. Before the sale, Mr. Gregson recommended that claimant encumber her property to reduce the chance of subrogation claims by the insurer. Mr. Gregson prepared two promissory notes secured by mortgages: the first to secure a one-year promissory note for $50,000 at 18% interest per month; and the second to secure a one-year promissory note for $100,000 at 10% interest per month. On both notes claimant was the apparent borrower and Mr. Gregson was the apparent lender. Claimant denied receiving either the $50,000 or the $100,000 loans from Mr. Gregson. On April 21, 2004, claimant gave another mortgage to a principal in a suburban law firm and confirmed receiving the $156,000 from which she gave Mr. Gregson a $25,000 retainer. Before lawyer-lender made that loan to claimant, Mr. Gregson subordinated the "phantom" $50,000 loan to claimant by signing a subordination agreement for which he received $25,000. That lawyer-lender mortgage was paid off as part of the closing on the sale of claimant’s home on October 28, 2004 when Mr. Gregson also filed discharges of the phantom mortgages in connection with that closing. Claimant did not attend the closing but was represented by Ennio Cataldo [now also disbarred]. The HUD-1 showed that $270,441.11 was due to claimant. On November 17, 2004, claimant pleaded guilty to arson, felonious destruction of property and one other minor charge and served 18 months in jail followed by two years’ probation. After claimant’s discharge from the house of correction, Mr. Gregson prepared an undated disbursement analysis of the proceeds from the sale of claimant’s home which showed a net balance to her of $103,666.11. Claimant denied ever receiving the $103,666.11 but acknowledge receiving $17,000 from Mr. Gregson in May 2008 as the "remaining funds of my account." Claimant contested the legitimacy of several of the disbursements listed by Mr. Gregson including the $23,125 real estate commission that went to Mr. Gregson who was then a licensed real estate salesperson. The Board found a defalcation and, considering the totality of the circumstances, awarded claimant $25,000.
CSB-2008-060 James S. Gregson, Saugus, MA (Disbarred)
Claimants are a husband and wife, the husband also being Mr. Gregson’s brother-in-law. Mr. Gregson had served as the claimants’ family legal advisor since June 1997. He represented them on the 2001 refinancing of their family home for which they paid him a fee. In August 2004, Mr. Gregson introduced claimants to an investor, whom he described as running a profitable business buying at a deep discount bad debt from credit card companies and then pursuing the debtors. Claimants invested $50,000 with that investor and Mr. Gregson prepared the promissory note but did not serve as counsel to either claimants or the investor. In February 2005, Mr. Gregson asked claimants to invest more in the business and they gave him another $50,000 which he promised they could have back whenever they needed it. Mr. Gregson did not deny receiving the $50,000 but claimed it was a loan to him for the expansion of his law office. Mr. Gregson presented a $50,000 promissory note dated February 4, 2005 memorializing the loan. Also in February claimants applied for a home equity loan on their New Hampshire home in order to purchase a home in Florida. They changed their minds on the Florida home purchase and decided instead to build an addition on their suburban home. Claimants’ architect drew up plans on which they received the necessary zoning approvals. In April 2005, claimants signed the home equity loan documents in Mr. Gregson’s office and he then handled the closing on the loan. The lender, believing the loan was still for the purchase of the Florida home, wired $103,000 to Mr. Gregson’s IOLTA account in early April 2005. During May 2005, claimants repeatedly asked Mr. Gregson for the proceeds of the refinancing so they could pay for their home addition. Mr. Gregson submitted to Bar Counsel an April 6, 2005, $100,000 promissory note payable to claimants together with the transcript of a friend of claimant-husband who testified that claimant-husband told the deponent that he was going to lend the proceeds of the home refinancing to Mr. Gregson. Claimants denied [to Bar Counsel] ever having seen the loan documents before. On some unspecified date in 2005, Mr. Gregson paid claimants $17,000. On October 14, 2005, Mr. Gregson, individually, and his law practice, filed separate Ch. 7 petitions in bankruptcy. Mr. Gregson was discharged in September 2008 while the law practice case remains open. The Board unanimously found that the $50,000 was a pure investment transaction between claimants and the investor in connection with which Mr. Gregson provided no legal services. The Board also unanimously found a defalcation of $103,000 in connection with the home refinancing and, after deducting the $17,000 payment, found a defalcation of $86,000 and made an award to claimants in that amount.
CSB-2008-085 Walter E. Steele, South Boston, MA (Disbarred)
Claimant, a 59-year-old unemployed widow, was criminally charged in Boston Municipal Court May 2007. On May 12, 2007, claimant retained Mr. Steele during a personal visit he paid to her home at which time she paid him $8,500 in cash. Mr. Steele promised a receipt but never delivered one. Mr. Steele appeared in court once and on the morning of the second court date, he informed claimant that he was sick and would not be able to appear with her that day. Claimant attended the court hearing at which the trial judge informed her that Mr. Steele had been suspended and that she should find substitute counsel. Claimant called Mr. Steele repeatedly during July and early August to get her money back and on August 5, 2007, Mr. Steele gave her an $8,000 check. The bank informed claimant that the account on which Mr. Steele had written the check had been closed for some time. Mr. Steele never returned any of claimant’s further calls on the matter. Mr. Steele never informed claimant of his disciplinary proceedings nor did he indicate to her that it was highly unlikely that he would be able to complete the engagement for which he had been retained and paid. The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $8,500.
CSB-2008-044 Theodore Scott Geller, Worcester, MA (Disbarred)
In February 2005, claimant paid Mr. Geller $800 for a divorce. By December 2005, the parties reached a negotiated settlement and the divorce was finalized in March 2006. During 2006 claimant's former wife defaulted on her negotiated obligation to pay certain credit card debts on accounts in claimant's name. Claimant contacted Mr. Geller who said that he would take care of it for no additional fee. The accounts remained unpaid; claimant's credit worsened and Mr. Geller assured claimant that the court was reviewing the matter. In 2007, Mr. Geller requested an additional fee. Claimant gave him $375 in two installments during March and June 2007. Bar Counsel had begun a disciplinary investigation in January 2007. Mr. Geller did nothing for the additional $375 fee that he never returned or accounted for. The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $375.
CSB-2008-010 Ronald Gary Pinson, Milton, MA (Disbarred)
Claimant was in an auto collision in May 2006. Mr. Pinson deposited a $4,700 settlement check into his IOLTA on October 20, 2006. Account records showed that no check was ever issued to claimant from that account. The signatures on the Release and on the settlement check were not claimant’s. Mr. Pinson apparently used the entire settlement for his own purposes. Claimant said he never received his part of the settlement. The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $3,133.34.
CSB-2009-038 Ronald Gary Pinson, Milton, MA (Disbarred)
In August 15, 2006, claimant was a passenger in a car when it was struck from behind while stopped for a stop light. Claimant was injured but not seriously. Claimant and the driver retained Mr. Pinson and gave him a very broad POA. Mr. Pinson settled both claims in February 2007 (in the shadow of his March 14 suspension) and deposited both checks (claimant’s was for $3,200) to his IOLTA on February 5. Mr. Pinson never paid the net settlement to either claimant-driver or claimant. The Commissioner appointed for Mr. Pinson's practice referred claimant to the CSB. The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $2,133.34. [Note: The Board made an award to the claimant-driver in October 2008.]