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August 15, 2011

Disciplinary Actions
Prepared by The Florida Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department
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The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 22 attorneys, disbarring 10 and suspending 10. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Two attorneys were publicly reprimanded; one was placed on probation, and one was ordered to pay restitution.

The following lawyers have been disciplined:

Gary Michael Appelblatt, 3610 American River Drive, #112, Sacramento, Calif., disbarred effective immediately, following a June 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) The Florida Bar was notified by the California Supreme Court that Appelblatt had been disbarred in that state in April 2010 because of felony convictions. (Case No. SC10-2463)

Antonio R. Arnao, 28870 U.S. Highway 19 N., Suite 315, Clearwater, suspended for 60 days, effective retroactive to Dec. 1, 2010, following a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Arnao was found in contempt for repeated failure to respond to official Bar inquiries and failure to show good cause for noncompliance. (Case No. SC10-1341)

Daniel Antonio Benito, 2423 S.W. 147th Ave. #362, Miami, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a June 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Benito had established a pattern over a three-year period of using client funds to satisfy past obligations to different clients, in a manner similar to a Ponzi scheme. One of Benito’s clients claimed to have sent him $80,000 for funding a marital settlement agreement. When the settlement did not materialize, the client demanded a refund through a new attorney, leading to a fee dispute. Instead of depositing the money into his trust account until the conflict was resolved, Benito disbursed the funds for his own use. (Case No. SC09-775)

Jessica Ann Bennett, 13194 U.S. Highway 301 S., Riverview, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from an April 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) While preparing and filing a petition for a client in a guardianship and life insurance case, Bennett received court notification of deficiencies that needed to be corrected in order to grant the petition. Bennett never corrected the deficiencies, never informed her client of court denial, and stopped working on the case. In another instance, Bennett accepted a retainer fee to represent a client in a modification of child support matter. She failed to perform any legal services or communicate with the client, and she failed to respond to Bar inquiries regarding the matter. (Case No. SC10-1017)

Richard Edward Benton, 1415 Piedmont Drive E., Suite 4, Tallahassee, suspended for 40 days, effective 30 days from a June 17 court order. Further, Benton is directed to attend ethics school. (Admitted to practice: 1976) Benton accepted legal fees from a client but took no action to move the case forward, and subsequently failed to communicate regarding the status. The client requested the return of his money and retained another attorney to complete the case. Benton also failed to respond to the Bar’s inquiries regarding the matter. (Case No. SC11-241)

J. Gordon Blau, 2732 Deer Berry Ct., Longwood, disbarred effective retroactive to April 1, following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) An audit revealed that Blau misappropriated and commingled client funds. Blau had a federal tax lien of more than $12,000, and his law firm failed to timely pay employee withholding taxes. Blau also charged an excessive fee and failed to adequately explain his contract for representation in one case. (Case No. SC11-712)

Kevin Jay Byrne, 1451 W. Cypress Creek Road, Suite 300, Ft. Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately, following a June 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) After receiving retainer fees from clients, Byrne demonstrated a pattern of neglect. He would schedule and then cancel meetings; he did little or no work on cases; and he failed to keep clients informed about the status of their cases. On numerous occasions, Byrne failed to respond to Bar inquiries regarding client matters. (Case No. SC11-628)

Arthur P. Cohen, 4701 Martinique Drive, Apt. B4, Coconut Creek, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from a June 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Cohen was arrested for possession of cocaine, a felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. Criminal charges were dismissed due to Cohen’s successful completion of drug court outpatient and pretrial intervention programs. (Case No. SC11-63)

Joseph R. DeLucca, c/o Gloria Clevenger, 16091 Blatt Blvd., Weston, disbarred effective immediately, following a June 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1971) DeLucca pleaded guilty in circuit court to one count of neglect of a child, a felony. Prior to petitioning for reinstatement, De Lucca shall reimburse The Florida Bar’s Clients’ Security Fund in the amount of $11,166.67. (Case Nos. SC09-412 & SC09-758)

Todd Corey Deratany, 503 Fifth Ave., Suite 102, Indialantic, disbarred for 10 years, effective retroactive to March 21, following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Deratany is the subject of numerous disciplinary violations. In several instances, Deratany failed to maintain adequate communication with his clients, and, in one civil matter, he failed to appear for a trial and did not notify the court or his client regarding his conflict with a pending criminal case. Deratany also made disparaging remarks about another defense attorney during a recorded conversation with an incarcerated former client. (Case Nos. SC10-1292 & SC10-2383)

David Edward Evans, 108 W. 4th St., Panama City, suspended for 90 days, effective July 15, following a June 17 court order. Upon reinstatement, Evans is further placed on probation for two years. (Admitted to practice: 1994) After being retained to represent clients, Evans often failed to communicate and failed to appear at scheduled hearings. Evans was subsequently arrested and charged with doctor shopping, i.e., concealing information to obtain prescription drugs. (Case No. SC10-1400)

John Everette Evans III, P.O. Box 1653, Ft. Myers, disbarred effective immediately, following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Evans engaged in a pattern of neglect with respect to client matters. In numerous instances, Evans obtained fees from clients and then failed to provide reasonable representation. He subsequently abandoned his practice without communicating with clients about their cases. (Case No. SC10-1566)

Terry Jon Forman, 1501 S. Le Jeune Road, Coral Gables, disbarred for 10 years, effective immediately, following a June 23 court order. Forman shall also pay restitution of $50,000 to one client. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Forman was both a practicing attorney and a certified public accountant when he entered into a business venture with clients. When the venture failed, Forman never repaid one of the investors. Forman knowingly participated in two mortgage fraud schemes, and he prepared and mailed a fraudulent income tax return to the IRS on behalf of a client’s girlfriend. Case No. SC10-1104)

Inger Michelle Garcia, P.O. Box 11933, Ft. Lauderdale, publicly reprimanded following a June 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Garcia is further directed to attend ethics school. In the handling of one case, Garcia disclosed embarrassing information that was irrelevant and prejudicial to the administration of justice. In three other instances, after accepting retainer fees, Garcia failed to properly communicate with clients and keep them informed about the status of their cases. (Case No. SC10-2261)

Eric P. Gifford, 3807 County Road 826, Anna, Texas, suspended until further order, following a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Gifford appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating client funds. A Bar investigation found that Gifford took $5,000 held in trust for a mentally disabled client and used part of the money to pay private school tuition for his children. (Case No. SC11-943)

John Robert Green, P.O. Box 349, Panama City, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) After his former wife filed a modification seeking an increase in child support, Green knowingly disobeyed an obligation to provide a truthful and accurate financial affidavit pursuant to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. A circuit court found that Green unnecessarily delayed the proceedings for three years by failing to provide financial information, misrepresenting his financial situation and changing his testimony regarding the authenticity of various loan applications and financial statements. (Case No. SC10-671)

Jay Clifton Halsema, 4446-1A Hendricks Ave., Suite 378, Jacksonville, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Halsema pleaded guilty in circuit court to a charge of a scheme to defraud, a first-degree felony. He failed to refund a second retainer to a client, failed to respond to Florida Bar complaints, and failed to replace worthless checks given for the purchase of a motorcycle. Halsema also secured the notarization of a HUD document, without the presence of his wife, whom he claimed signed the purchase agreement. (Case Nos. SC10-1334 & SC11-36)

Alex Heydasch, 100 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2100, Miami, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a May 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Heydasch was the settlement agent for 15 real estate transactions where a suspended lawyer, who is now permanently disbarred, handled the closings. Heydasch entrusted him to properly conduct the closings and failed to adequately supervise his actions. (SC10-1990)

Michael Vincent Laurato, 1902 W. Cass St., Tampa, publicly reprimanded following a June 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Laurato provided false testimony under oath during a deposition. (Case No. SC09-1953)

James Robert Mann, 1220 16th St., Miami Beach, suspended for 91 days, effective immediately, following a June 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Mann failed to comply with the conditions of his Sept. 30, 2010, suspension. He was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the Bar listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that were given a copy of his suspension order. (Case No. SC11-595)

Stanley E. Marable, 677 N. Washington Blvd., Suite 2, Sarasota, disbarred effective immediately, following a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Marable displayed a pattern of misconduct, receiving a public reprimand and two suspensions between 1994 and 2010. This time, Marable failed to provide competent representation to a client and he failed to respond to official Bar inquiries. Marable subsequently abandoned his practice. (Case No. SC10-1828)

Michael M. Milchman, 3903 Pinewood Lane, Hollywood, suspended for three years, effective retroactive to Sept. 23, 2009, following a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Milchman failed to comply with all the terms and conditions of his October 2008 suspension. He accepted legal fees to represent a client while suspended. (Case No. SC09-1791)

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years or longer if stated. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Historically, fewer than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.

[Revised: 10-09-2014]