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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2007-096

IN RE: KAREN M. HARBECK

S.J.C. Judgment of Disbarment entered by Justice Cordy on October 14, 2008.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent stipulated to an order of disbarment for the intentional misuse of trust funds with deprivation resulting.

On February 15, 2006, Gerald died testate survived by his sister and two brothers. Gerald’s will bequeathed the totality of his estate to his niece, Maria. On May 23, 2006, Gerald’s will was approved and allowed and the respondent was appointed executrix of the estate. The respondent was also trustee of a trust of which Maria was sole beneficiary. The trust held title to residential real estate in Malden.

On December 27, 2006, the respondent, in her capacity as trustee of the trust, closed on the sale of the property for consideration of $310,000. On that day, the respondent received a check from the settlement agent in the amount of $292,812.98, representing the net proceeds payable to the respondent as trustee of the trust. On December 27, 2006, the respondent deposited the net proceeds check into an account (“living trust”). Maria was sole beneficiary of the living trust.

On March 3, 2006, the respondent opened the account described above in the name of the living trust. From March 3, 2006, until December 27, 2006, in addition to the deposit of the net proceeds from the sale of the realty, the respondent deposited $139,416 of funds representing proceeds from bank accounts of Gerald’s life insurance proceeds and miscellaneous reimbursements owed to Gerald or his estate. On November 30, 2006, the respondent deposited and commingled in the account $29,000 of funds from her personal account for unknown reasons. Thus, the respondent deposited, in total, $461,228.53 into the account.

Between March 8, 2006, and March 22, 2007, the respondent intentionally made fifteen withdrawals from the account by checks payable to herself in large round amounts totaling $169,750. The respondent used the funds withdrawn for personal or business purposes unrelated to the purposes of the estate, the trust or the living trust.

Between April 11, 2006 and December 28, 2006, Maria received from the respondent a total of $300,000 of the $461,228.53 deposited into the account. As of April 1, 2007 and continuing thereafter, the account had a balance of $9.71. On November 19, 2007, the respondent withdrew $9.71 and closed the account.

To date, Maria as sole beneficiary of the trust, sole beneficiary of the living trust and as sole beneficiary of the estate, is deprived of funds of not less than $132,228.53, minus reasonable attorney fees and costs.

The respondent’s intentional misuse of trust funds with continuing deprivation resulting is in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(b) and (c) and 8.4(c) and (h).

In aggravation, the respondent had a substantial prior disciplinary history including charging an excessive fee, inadequate record keeping, failure to account for client funds, lack of diligence and a failure to communicate. (Matter of Harbeck, BD-2007-096 (October 25, 2007), PR 2006-17, 22 Mass. Att'y Disc. R. 378 and AD 01-60, 17 Mass. Att'y Disc. R. 775).

On August 14, 2008, bar counsel filed a petition for discipline against the respondent alleging the above facts. On August 14, 2008, bar counsel and the respondent filed with the board the respondent’s answer and stipulation to bar counsel’s petition for discipline. The respondent admitted that the allegations in the petition could be proven by a preponderance of the evidence and that disbarment was the appropriate discipline. On September 8, 2008, the board voted to accept the stipulation of the parties and to file an information with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County recommending that the respondent be disbarred. On December 4, 2007, the Court so ordered.


FOOTNOTES:

1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

2 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.



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