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March 1, 2019 Disciplinary Actions

Disciplinary Actions

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 24 attorneys — disbarring four, revoking the licenses of two, suspending 11, and publicly reprimanding seven. Three attorneys were also placed on probation and four were ordered to pay restitution to clients.

Sonia Yvette Amador, P.O. Box 961288, Miami, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a December 26, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Amador was found in contempt for noncompliance. She failed to respond to official Bar inquiries regarding complaints. (Case No. SC18-1678)

Frank J. Bankowitz III, 215 E. Livingston St., Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded by publication, following an August 23, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Further, Bankowitz shall pay restitution of $2,500 to one client, and he shall complete ethics school. After being retained, Bankowitz failed to diligently pursue a client’s post-conviction matter and failed to maintain adequate communication with the client. (Case No. SC18-1268)

Christine G. Bauer, 5401 S. Kirkman Road, Suite 310, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately, following a November 29, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Further, Bauer shall pay restitution of more than $23,000 to one client. Bauer had a significant shortage in her trust account and abandoned her law practice. She also made misrepresentations to The Florida Bar during its investigation, failed to respond to the Bar’s subpoena, and failed to appear for the final disciplinary hearing. (Case No. SC18-776)

David Allen Brener, 2502 Second St., Suite 204, Ft. Myers, suspended effective December 28, 2018, following a November 28, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Brener abandoned his law practice without notice to his clients and without taking reasonable steps to protect their interests. Brener has consistently and continually failed to appear for court proceedings since about early October 2018 in at least three counties — Lee, Pinellas, and Collier. He also failed to appear at the show cause hearing. (Case No. SC18-1944)

Steven Paul Burch, 126 E. Olympia Ave., Suite 404, Punta Gorda, permanently disbarred effective retroactive to July 19, 2018, following an October 18, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Burch abandoned his law practice after being arrested and detained until trial for violating the conditions of his pretrial release in a federal criminal case. He also pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin and agreed to forfeit his law license. Burch also failed to diligently represent a client after collecting a fee for his services. (Case Nos. SC18-1151 and SC18-942)

Joseph Patrick Gaeta, 1601 Jackson St., Suite 102, Ft. Myers, disbarred effective immediately, following a December 27, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Gaeta abandoned his law practice and clients, failed to complete the legal services for which he was hired, and allowed the statute of limitations to expire in 14 personal injury cases without settlement and without communicating the status of the cases to the clients. (Case No. SC18-940)

Justin Scott Gaines, 122 E. Main St., No. 236, Lakeland, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter, following a December 20, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Further, Gaines shall be placed on probation for six months, and register with Florida Lawyers Assistance. Court personnel reported that Gaines appeared in court impaired on at least two occasions, looking gaunt, nervous, and with dilated pupils. Another time he failed to timely appear in court for jury selection, causing the jury panel to be released. He arrived 15 minutes late for another court appearance. (Case No: SC18-564)

David Michael Goldstein, 200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2770, Miami. The court granted Goldstein’s petition for a disciplinary revocation effective 60 days from a January 3 court order, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary charge pending against Goldstein involved allegations of trust account violations. (Case No: SC18-1854)

Kelly Ann Greene, P.O. Box 547065, Orlando, suspended for one year, effective retroactive to December 3, 2018, following a January 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Greene was found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of an August 3, 2017, court order in which she was suspended for 30 days and placed on probation upon reinstatement. Greene failed to complete a diversion discipline consultant service review, and she failed to remit monthly monitoring fees associated with her Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., contract. (Case No: SC18-872)

Diego Handel, 149 S. Ridgewood Ave., Suite 220, Daytona Beach, suspended effective 30 days from a December 10, 2018, court order, until he produces requested trust account records and until further order of the court. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Handel was found in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena issued by The Florida Bar for production of his law office trust account records. The records were needed to complete a compliance audit of his trust account following an insufficient funds notice from the bank. (Case No: SC18-1662)

Brett Hartley, 533 Seabreeze Blvd., Suite 300, Daytona Beach, suspended until further order, following a December 27, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Hartley appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating client funds and abandoning his law practice without taking steps to protect his clients’ interests. (Case No. SC18-2069)

Jacqueline Marie Kinsella, P.O. Box 1104, Goldenrod, suspended for three years, effective immediately, following a December 20, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2016) Kinsella pleaded no contest to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of petty theft, and the remaining charges were dismissed. Adjudication of guilt was withheld, and Kinsella was placed on probation for 12 months under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. Before being reinstated to practice law, Kinsella must prove she has been rehabilitated. (Case No. SC17-55)

Brian Kozlowski, 686 Gladwin Ave., Fern Park, suspended for 10 days, effective 30 days from a December 27, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Kozlowski neglected two separate client matters and failed to timely respond to The Florida Bar’s inquiries regarding his conduct. (Case No. SC18-1074)

Esmond Jude Lewis, 5237 Summerlin Commons Blvd., Suite 312, Ft. Myers, suspended for 30 days, effective January 22, following a December 20, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Further, Lewis shall pay restitution of $4,000 to one client. After collecting fees for his services, Lewis failed to diligently pursue a client’s claim against a city utility company, failed to properly communicate with the client, and failed to timely respond to the Bar’s official inquiries regarding the grievance filed by the client. (Case No. SC18-284)

Walter C. Little, 502 S. Freemont Ave., No. 228, Tampa, disbarred effective retroactive to April 2, 2018, following an October 15, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Little was disbarred for engaging in felonious criminal activity involving conspiracy to commit insider trading/securities fraud. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. (Case No. SC18-479)

Kelly Anne McCabe, 1802 N. Belcher Road, Suite 100, Clearwater, to be publicly reprimanded, following a November 29, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) McCabe was found in contempt for failing to respond to inquiries by the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar in a timely manner. (Case No. SC18-1551)

Richard Costin Mendoza, 390 N. Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded following a November 8, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Further, Mendoza shall be placed on probation for two years, effective immediately. Mendoza failed to properly supervise his bookkeeper, resulting in a check being returned due to insufficient funds in the trust account. During the audit period, Mendoza also commingled his personal funds with client trust funds and failed to maintain his trust account in minimal compliance with Bar rules. (SC18-1719)

Alexander John Michaels, 999 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Suite 750, Coral Gables, suspended for six months, effective 30 days from a December 27, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Further, Michaels shall provide a written letter of apology to four assistant state attorneys, and upon reinstatement, he shall be placed on probation for three years. (SC16-2048)

Nicole Leigh Naumann, 15065 McGregor Blvd., Suite 104, Ft. Myers, suspended until further order, effective January 9, following a December 10, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Naumann was found in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena to produce trust account records. (SC18-1788)

Michael Anthony Saracco, 520 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, to be publicly reprimanded following a November 1, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Further, Saracco shall attend ethics school. Three separate complainants said Saracco neglected their matters during his association with a company that cancels timeshare contracts. They alleged that Saracco and the company did not perform the work promised, failed to return calls, and failed to promptly refund fees when they were unsuccessful in terminating timeshare contracts. The Bar also received a complaint from an attorney about Saracco’s association with the company. (SC18-1684)

Lora S. Scott, 37 N. Orange Ave., Suite 500, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded following a December 20, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Further, Scott shall attend ethics school, and pay restitution of $2,000 to one client. Scott failed to diligently handle her client’s criminal appeal. She also failed to adequately communicate with her client regarding the status of the matter, despite repeated requests. (SC18-636)

Jonathan Robert Simon, 618 E. South St., Suite 500, Orlando. The court granted Simon’s petition for a disciplinary revocation, effective 30 days from a December 13, 2018, court order, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary charge pending against Simon involved trust account violations. (Case No: SC18-1774)

Matthew Scott Toll, 20 Barkley Circle, Suite 202, Ft. Myers, to receive a public reprimand, to be administered by the Board of Governors, following a November 8, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Toll made defamatory comments toward the opposing party, one of whom was also a lawyer, in a civil suit. In a letter attached as an exhibit in the civil complaint, Toll used unprofessional language, made unfounded allegations, and threatened criminal and Bar disciplinary investigations. (Case No. SC18-1710)

Nicholas Joseph Zurawskyj, 213 SW 44th Terrace, Cape Coral, suspended for six months, effective immediately, following a November 21, 2018, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Without authorization or prompting, Zurawskyj obtained protected health information by impersonating the opposing party in a contested family law matter being handled by his former boss. Zurawskyj also attempted to extort $75,000 from his former boss in exchange for his requesting that the Bar dismiss the complaint he filed against the former boss and recommend that the former boss receive only a two-week suspension from the practice of law. Zurawskyj permanently retired prior to the suspension; however, he was still subject to discipline for prior conduct. (Case No. SC18-1715)

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 106,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. Additional 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.