SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 26 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from May 22 to June 26, 2020
The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 26 attorneys, disbarring two, revoking the license of 12, suspending nine and reprimanding three. Three attorneys were also given probation. Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.
As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 108,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.
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. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.
Richard Edward Benton, 1415 Piedmont Drive E., Suite 4, Tallahassee, disciplinary revocation effective immediately following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1976) Complaints filed regarding Benton involves three probate cases in which clients alleged that Benton failed to communicate and failed to diligently handle their legal matters. In one instance, he failed to disburse the client’s inheritance for two years. Benton also failed to respond to the Bar or the grievance committee. (Case No: SC20-384)
Mary Catherine Bonner, 1315 South Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, suspended effective 30 days from a June 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979) Bonner failed to respond both to Florida Bar inquiries and the Supreme Court’s order to show cause. She is suspended until she fully responds in writing to the Bar inquiry, and until further order of the Court. (Case No: SC20-667)
Anthony Gilbert Bossone, P.O. Box 2194, Palm Harbor, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission in five years effective immediately following a June 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Bossone admitted to creating a false trial order for a client thus defrauding his client and the court. His neglect of the client’s case put it in danger of being dismissed and he failed to adequately communicate with his client. In other cases, Bossone allegedly failed to pay on known settled cases, refused to respond to the status of remaining cases, failed to pay settlement funds, collected fees without taking any action on the client’s behalf and did not diligently represent clients nor reasonably communicate with them. Bossone failed to respond to the Bar’s inquiries regarding these complaints. (Case No: SC20-258)
John Andrew Braithwaite, 390 North Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando, suspended for 10 days and ordered to attend Ethics School effective 30 days following a June 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Braithwaite obtained a client’s case through improper solicitation and failed to diligently disburse surplus proceeds from his trust account to the client for approximately eight months. Braithwaite also failed to adequately communicate with the client. (Case No: SC20-55)
Kevin Scott Caldwell, P.O. Box 8716, Fleming Island, disbarred effective immediately following a June 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) While Caldwell worked at Farah & Farah, the firm discovered that files for a number of cases reflected that they had been “settled” however clients said that they did not authorize and had no knowledge of settlements. Irregularities – including releases and closing statements with forged or copied/pasted signatures — were also found and when confronted with this information, Caldwell lied, claiming that clients had, in fact, given him settlement authority. (Case No: SC19-2007)
Lawrence Paul Cartelli, 400 N. Sinclair Ave., Tavares, public reprimand and required to complete Ethics School, effective 15 days following a May 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) While representing a client in a divorce case, Cartelli discussed with the client and the client’s girlfriend a dormant charity he created many years before to assist families in need. The client offered to pay monthly rent on the office space, and the client’s girlfriend offered to work toward re-invigorating the charity. Cartelli failed to advise the client of the potential conflict of interest in writing and did not obtain a waiver of any potential conflict of interest. When the client loaned Cartelli money, at Cartelli’s request, Cartelli did not advise him of the potential conflict of interest or to consult an independent attorney. Cartelli also accepted a loan to the charity from a former client whose wife he represented and charitable donations from other clients without written agreements or advising of the need for independent counsel. Cartelli failed to keep adequate financial records for the charity. (Case No: SC20-702)
George William Castrataro, 707 NE 3 Ave., Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission granted effective immediately following a June 25 court order. Castrataro was already suspended as a result of an earlier Order to Show Cause and a Petition for Emergency Suspension. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Castrataro filed his petition for disciplinary revocation based upon misappropriating client funds as alleged in the Bar’s Petition for Emergency Suspension. (Case No: SC20-636)
May Wong Chou, 8951 Bonita Beach Road, SE, Suite 525-388, Bonita Springs, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission in five years effective 30 days from the June 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Chou, while handling an immigration matter for a client, permitted her non-attorney legal assistant to manage the client’s property which created a conflict of interest. Chou failed to supervise the non-attorney who misappropriated client funds from which Chou received benefit. (Case No: SC20-586)
Robert Gregory Colvin, P.O. Box 3106, Orlando, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days following a June 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Colvin hired a series of temporary assistants who failed to receive sufficient training and supervision. As a result, adequate client communication and diligent handling of legal matters deteriorated. Colvin discovered in 2018 that his long-time assistant had kept client communication from him and had not been following through on tasks promised to clients. Four clients had their cases neglected, including one who missed a statute of limitations deadline because of the failure to properly calendar her case. (Case No: SC20-712)
James Bennett Coulter III, 1402 Highway A1A, Suite A, Satellite Beach, suspended for one year followed by a two-year period of probation effective 30 days following a May 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Coulter failed to maintain his law office trust account in substantial minimum compliance with required rules. He failed to adequately supervise his non-attorney staff and an independent contractor who maintained his financial records and, as a result, payments for operating and/or personal expenses were made from the trust account. On two occasions during the audit period, client trust funds were deposited in error into the operating account. No clients complained and Coulter deposited personal funds into the trust account to correct the shortages. (Case No: SC20-700)
Robert Alexander Craven, 3637 4 St. North, Suite 290, Saint Petersburg, disciplinary revocation without leave to apply for readmission effective 30 days from June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) Craven failed to inform his client regarding the receipt of funds, which he didn’t receive until he confronted Craven. Craven’s trust account records showed he misappropriated at least $55,211.80 in clients’ funds. (Case No: SC20-487)
Steven Mitchell Dever, P.O. Box 9811, Panama City Beach, public reprimand with one year of probation during which time Dever will attend a Professionalism Workshop, and obtain 15 Continuing Legal Education credits in civil litigation effective immediately following a June 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Dever filed nonmeritorious claims, failed to comply with numerous discovery requests and rules, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice during the course of civil proceedings. (Case No: SC19-910)
Thomas Neil Fischgrund, 7024 Central Ave., Fl 2, Saint Petersburg, public reprimand with attendance and completion of The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop effective immediately following a June 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Fischgrund did not clearly explain to his adoption entity clients the distinction between initial non-legal adoption entity services and subsequent legal work, and he allowed his non-attorney executive director to handle all dealings and maintain bookkeeping without adequate supervision. Poor bookkeeping practices found for the adoption entity trust account had been rectified. (Case No: SC19-2118)
Justin Scott Gaines, P.O. Box 1735, Highland City, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Gaines engaged in a pattern of misconduct that includes repeatedly neglecting client matters, failing to timely respond to Bar inquiries, engaging in the practice of law while a delinquent member of the Bar, and engaging in criminal conduct. (Case No: SC20-549)
Charles Emil Heim, Jr., 2040 Highway A1A, Suite 201, Indian Harbour Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission effective 30 days from a June 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) An audit of Heim’s trust accounts records for 2010-2019 showed they were not in substantial compliance with Bar rules, resulting in shortages. Heim disclosed he was unable to account for funds in excess of $196,000 and could not account for the assets of the trust, despite repeated requests from the Bar, nor did he maintain sufficient records. (Case No: SC20-462)
Charles Edward Hobbs II, 1469 Market St., Tallahassee, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a June 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Hobbs was retained in September 2015 to file a post-conviction action. Despite repeated requests over the years from the client, Hobbs failed to file the client’s petition until April 2018, approximately two and half years after being years retained. (Case No: SC18-1234)
Steven Anthony Pellingra, 14802 Par Club Circle, Tampa, suspended for two years effective immediately due to respondent’s existing emergency suspension. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Pellingra misappropriated client funds as a result of his negligent trust accounting practices and record keeping. (Case No: SC19-1043)
Sidney Carter Peterson, Jr., 418 Canal St., New Smyrna Beach, disciplinary revocation without leave to reapply for admission effective 30 days from a June 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) Peterson admitted to signing pleadings on behalf of the beneficiaries of an estate, without their permission, and which falsely stated that the beneficiaries had received their distributions from the estate and waived their right to an accounting. (Case No: SC20-336)
James M. Potts, Sr., 1141 SE 2nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale, suspended for 60 days and probation for two years with special conditions effective 30 days following a June 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Potts represented residents of a condominium who alleged that the treasurer was misusing the homeowner’s association funds. Potts attempted to get banking records from the treasurer, but when he did not cooperate, Potts sent the treasurer unprofessional and disparaging emails and text messages. The Florida Supreme Court found a pattern of misconduct and multiple offenses. (Case No: SC19-42)
Matthew Haury Roby, P.O. Box 608, Winter Park, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days from a June 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) A Florida Bar audit of Roby’s trust account for the period Jan. 1. through Oct. 31, 2019, demonstrated he was not in substantial compliance with Bar rules, resulting in shortages. (Case No: SC20-281)
David Drake Sharpe, P.O. Box 4326, Tampa, disbarred effective 30 days following a May 14, court order, (Admitted to practice: 2008) Sharpe engaged in improper delay tactics in a number of cases, a pattern that continued in disciplinary proceedings with his misrepresentations to the court, failure to act with diligence in handling clients’ cases, and his failure to respond to the Bar. (Case No: SC19-145)
Bonne Zell Scheflin, 11352 West State Road 84, Davie, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following a June 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Subsequent to Scheflin’s 18-month suspension effective Sept. 15, 2019, a complaint alleged funds were missing and that Scheflin failed to withdraw from a pending case. Additionally, after the effective date of his suspension, Scheflin had been in contact with clients. He also failed to provide the Bar with requested bank records. (Case No: SC20-365)
Scot Strems, 2525 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 600, Coral Gables, emergency suspended until further order effective immediately following a June 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Strems committed in-court abuse of the judicial process, resulting in great public harm to clients, opposing parties, the judiciary and the public. This matter has been referred to a referee who will make a recommendation to the court as to discipline and entitlement to funds in Strems’ frozen trust account. (Case No: SC20-806)
Herbert Irving Walker III, 7601 E. Treasure Drive, Apt. 1907, Miami Beach, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a June 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Walker created a conflict of interest by representing two clients in a criminal action where one was accessory after the fact to murder committed by the other. Walker accepted a substantial gift from one client, who was neither a relative nor a close personal friend and communicated with the other client he represented. (SC18-1950)
Jonathan Joseph Warrick, 4700 Millenia Blvd., Suite 175, Orlando, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Between 2018 and 2019, Warrick accepted legal fees to represent clients and then failed to provide diligent and competent representation, failed to maintain adequate communication, misled some clients about the status of their legal matters and ultimately closed his law office in or around July 2019. A Florida Bar audit showed that Warrick’s trust account was not in substantial compliance with the Bar rules, resulting in shortages. (Case No: SC20-481)
Martin Miles Werner, 1739 Lake Marion Drive, Apopka, disciplinary revocation without leave to apply for readmission effective immediately as respondent was felony suspended effective Oct. 9, 2019. (Admitted to practice: 1985) On June 18, the Court granted Werner’s uncontested petition without leave to apply for readmission. Werner filed his petition based upon his two felony convictions for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (Internal Revenue Service) and Conspiracy to Launder Money. (Case No: SC20-536)
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