Florida Supreme Court Disbars Two Palm Beach Attorneys

, Daily Business Review

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Two Palm Beach County attorneys have been disbarred in unrelated cases following allegations of mortgage fraud and money laundering.

Theodore T. Tarone Jr., a former partner at Stromberg & Tarone in Palm Beach, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud on 17 real estate closings.

Tarone's scam involved preparing two HUD-1 settlement statements for each closing after fraudulent mortgage loan applications were submitted to lenders, according to the referee's report by Broward Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy.

"One HUD-1 contained the accurate sales price. The other HUD-1 contained the inflated sales price as contained on the fraudulent mortgage application. Respondent conducted the closing and mailed the false HUD-1 statement to the lender," she found.

Tarone was sentenced March 29 in federal court to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of nearly $3.5 million.

Scott F. Saidel, a solo practitioner in Boca Raton, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstruct justice and tamper with a witness for helping Kim Rothstein hide jewels after her husband's Ponzi scheme collapsed. Saidel was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum in Fort Lauderdale to three years in prison for handling money flowing from ex-law firm chairman Scott Rothstein's fraud.

Suspensions

In other lawyer disciplinary action by the Florida Supreme Court, Thomas W. Austin Jr. of Wilton Manors was suspended for 91 days. He owned and operated a mortgage loan modification business called the Protection Law Center. He entered a conditional guilty plea to Florida Bar findings that his employees improperly solicited potential clients. Austin was accused of failing to properly supervise nonlawyer employees who at times guaranteed loan modifications and failing to adequately communicate with clients when he was retained.

Bennett L. Grossman of Fort Lauderdale got a 90-day suspension for sharing fees with a nonlawyer who he didn't supervise. He opened a law practice in 2011, and a former co-worker who was a paralegal opened an executive law center simultaneously. The paralegal referred clients to Grossman, who agreed to represent all clients that hired the law center. In exchange, he was paid $3,500 a month.

Another referral scheme involved Paul R. Kennedy of Delray Beach, who was suspended for 18 months. Kennedy accepted more than 1,000 referrals from a nonlawyer entity in timeshare resale fraud cases. Kennedy subsequently realized some referrals were obtained via prohibited solicitations. Employees of the referring agency improperly guaranteed successful results. Kennedy's performance resulted in more than 50 Bar complaints.

Sarah E. Gumz of Fort Lauderdale received a 30-day suspension and three years probation. She was conditionally admitted to the bar in June 2011 based on alcohol abuse issues. She reported to The Bar in June 2012 that she was arrested for misdemeanor drunken driving the previous month.

Anthony T. Lepore of Pembroke Pines got a 91-day suspension in the robo-signing scandal. For several years, he signed thousands of foreclosure affidavits for the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson without the presence of a notary public.

Mark Alexander Hutner of Miami got a three-year suspension for a bounced check. In August 2011, a bank notified The Bar that Hutner issued $13,150 check from his trust account with insufficient funds. The bank honored the check, and Hutner repaid the bank.

Jolyon W. Morris of Miami got a 90-day suspension after The Bar found he paid himself from a client's marital settlement agreement before getting her permission.

Reprimands

Michael H. Blacker of Miami was reprimanded for a real estate transaction error. After selling his house, he learned it was encumbered by a home equity mortgage he and his wife had previously applied for. He mistakenly thought it was a personal loan.

Scott M. Newman of Boca Raton was reprimanded after pleading guilty in November 2012 and February 2013 to misdemeanor drunken driving. He also pleaded guilty to resisting arrest without violence. He was placed on probation and his license was suspended.

In addition to a reprimand, Henry N. Portner of Wellington must pay $4,390 restitution to two clients. He failed to adequately assist nonlawyer employees hired to assist with loan modifications. He also failed to adequately communicate with clients.

Jorge Rivera at the Immigration Group firm in Miami was reprimanded after admitting his law firm used a retainer agreement since 2007 containing language seeking to limit the firm's liability for malpractice.

Michael D. Stewart of Miami was reprimanded for failing to adequately communicate with clients on three separate occasions.

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