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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2010-040

IN RE: ROBERT J. ABALOS

S.J.C. Judgment of Disbarment entered by Justice Spina on July 21, 2010, with an effective date of August 20, 2010.1

SUMMARY2

On March 28, 2008, the license of the respondent, Robert J. Abalos, to practice law in Virginia was revoked by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board. The circumstances resulting in the respondent’s discipline were as follows.

The respondent has operated an Internet website, http://www.investinginland.com, through which he has marketed home study courses and booklets regarding land investing. In 2004, a consumer ordered, paid $99 for and received some materials from the respondent’s website. The respondent then sent the consumer an email offering additional material for $795. The consumer paid the respondent for the additional material with his Visa credit card. When the consumer did not receive the material, despite repeated requests, he disputed the credit card charge. Visa issued a charge-back, which was upheld over the respondent’s protests.

The respondent then sent the consumer a stream of emails demanding payment of the original $795 charge plus an additional $420 for the respondent’s “fees and expenses” in responding to the charge-back. The respondent threatened the consumer with criminal action, a “federal mail fraud complaint” and “imminent arrest”—“See you in court. You’ll be in the handcuffs”. When the consumer informed the respondent that he was represented by a lawyer, the respondent wrote back that “I don’t care if you are represented by the Pope.” In a later email, the respondent told the consumer “I’m a practicing lawyer in SIX jurisdictions, Federal and State. Your lawyer is giving you BAD advice.” When the consumer’s lawyer contacted the respondent and directed him to stop contacting the consumer directly, the respondent contacted the consumer directly and added $150 to his demand for “costs associated with having to read and reply to that truly dumb letter your so-called ‘lawyer’ sent me.”

In a second matter, another consumer purchased material from the respondent’s website for $59.80 and then mistakenly disputed the charge on his credit card. The consumer recognized his error and offered to pay the respondent $97 for the original charge and an administrative fee the respondent claimed to have incurred. The respondent rejected the offer and repeatedly sent the consumer emails threatening the consumer with felony charges, arrest and jail unless he paid the respondent an amount that increased first to $540 and then to $1,180. The consumer was terrorized by the respondent’s threats because he relied on the respondent’s statements as a lawyer and believed that he was going to be arrested.

The Virginia Disciplinary Board concluded that the respondent threatened to present criminal charges solely to gain an advantage in a civil matter and communicated with a person known to be represented by counsel in the matter. The Board also concluded that the respondent’s intent was to extort additional funds from the consumers and that his “repeated criminal threats, threats of civil sanctions and improper and deliberately misleading demands and his deliberate misrepresentations and lies . . . reflects [sic] adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice law.” In aggravation, the Board noted that the State of Washington Practice of Law Board had concluded that in maintaining his website, the respondent was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in that state.

The respondent did not report the revocation of his license to practice law in Virginia to Massachusetts bar counsel, as required by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16(6).

On April 30, 2010, bar counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County. The Court issued an order of notice giving the respondent 30 days to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be ordered in Massachusetts. The respondent did not reply to the order of notice and did not appear at a hearing held by the Court on July 19, 2010. On July 21, 2010, the Court (Spina, J.) entered an order disbarring the respondent and striking his name from the Roll of Attorneys.


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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