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Healthcare fraud, ‘misappropriated’ funds and SCREAMING EMAILS!!! get attorneys disciplined

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Before listing the South Florida attorneys who have made the Florida Bar’s report of discipline by the state Supreme Court, here are definitions of two legal terms that will come in handy.

Disciplinary revocation: This is, essentially, disbarment that the attorney can request. It resolves the discipline cases, at least as far as the Florida Bar is concerned. Criminal cases involving the same acts are not affected. The Court can approve this with leave to reapply at least five years from the revocation or without leave to reapply.

Misappropriation of funds: Theft.

This listing goes in alphabetical order.

Miami attorney Raul Garcia (St. Thomas University Law School, Bar member since 1990) started a three-year suspension May 23. After he’s back in the warm embrace of the Florida Bar, Garcia will serve one year probation. According to the referee’s report, at issue were settlement funds for six clients of Raul Enrique Garcia Jr., P.A. Five clients received their settlement money late in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

While Florida 11th Circuit Judge Alberto Milian didn’t find the Bar proved Garcia “intentionally converted the settlement monies/property” of the five clients, he did find Garcia “should have known he was dealing improperly with the five clients’ settlement monies/property.”

After considering mitigating factors, including Garcia having no previous discipline record and being the lone caregiver to his dying mother during that time, Milian recommended a 90-day suspension despite finding Garcia violated eight rules regarding conduct, handling trust accounts and basic honesty.

The Supreme Court agreed with the above, but saw a “pattern of misconduct” with “multiple offenses.” So, it ditched Milian’s 90-day suspension suggestion for a three-year suspension.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Frank Heston (University of Miami School of Law, Bar member since 1973) is 70 years old and been a member of the Bar since 1973. His petition for disciplinary revocation says it’s “alleged” Heston failed to tell a client about a real property sale, then backed that up by not passing along the money. But it also says the Bar investigation showed Heston “misappropriated” $71,327.53 in trust fund money that should have gone to the client.

Heston has paid the client $73,000 since his “misappropriation.” He’s got another Bar file open concerning possible misuse of trust funds.

Heston is not facing criminal charges in either case. And, going for disciplinary revocation will make these Bar cases go away while he goes away (as a lawyer) for five years. Then, Heston can reapply for Bar readmission after five years.

West Palm Beach attorney David Jaynes (Texas Southern School of Law, Bar member since 1982) ignored the part of 91-day September 2017 suspension that required him to pass along an affidavit with the contact information of all the clients, opposing counsel and tribunals he notified of his suspension. That turned the six-month forced furlough into a one-year suspension in August 2018. Jaynes did the same with that suspension.

So, now, he’s suspended until May 23, 2022.

Lighthouse Point attorney Alexander Kapetan (University of Miami School of Law, admitted 1999) went for disciplinary revocation, in effect, disbarment, and can seek readmission to the Bar in five years. According to the Florida Departmen. of Corrections, he will still have about five years left on his probation sentence for patient brokering, using a two-way communication device to commit a felony and being an accessory after the fact.

Kapetan, Steven Slootsky, Vincent Pravato and Mark Spatz all went down in a 2017 Broward County patient brokering bust. Each is on probation.

Alexander Kapetan.jpg
Alexander Kapetan Florida Dept. of Corrections

Doral attorney Juan Naranjo (Tulane University School of Law, admitted 1997) grabbed disciplinary revocation to solve his Bar issues. He didn’t appear at federal court hearings, leading to contempt charges there. There’s a Bar case for that as well as one accusing Naranjo of client neglect, lack of communication and lack of diligence. He can apply for reinstatement on May 18, 2024.

Delray Beach attorney Sabrina Spradley (FIU School of Law, admitted 2009) didn’t appreciate an opposing attorney’s motion to quash a case, so she sent an email Feb. 25, 2017 that read in part:

“ I just read your sham of a motion. Do you really want to waste my time and a Judge’s or a General Magistrate’s time with this motion?!...I am 39 years old. I have been licensed to practice law since 2009. I assure you, you will not enjoy being in the same courtroom with me. I have made men who were practicing law since before I was born wish they had not underestimated me...”

Apparently believing she’d been too subtle, Spradley fired off another email, on Feb. 27, 2017, that read in part:

....If I were you, I would STOP WAISTING [sic] MY CLIENTS MONEY, and MORE IMPORTANTLY MY TIME, AND TRY filing say a real Answer or would that be too difficult for you? I will thoroughly enjoy EVERY SECOND OF THAT HEARING! You will pray that you never hava [sic] to appear before that Judge or General Magistrate EVER AGAIN. Your client will wish that she were able to afford to hire my [sic] rather than you. Do I need to elaborate further? Let me just elaborate a tad more. How long have you been licensed to practice law? Was your father a FAMOUS WORLD RENOWN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY? Were you bom [sic] with this man’s passion to practice law running through your veins?”

That same month, in another matter, she filed a motion for charging lien after withdrawing from a case. On May 5, 2017, Judge Christina Serrano denied the motion. Spradley expressed her displeasure to Serrano’s judicial assistant in a May 18 email:

Please let your boss know that I will be reporting her unfair and biased treatment of me and her ABSURD AND MERITLESS ORDER TO EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE AUTHORITY IN FLORIDA!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE ADMITTED THAT SHE LITERALLY KNEW NOTHING ABOUT ATTORNEY’S CHARGING LIENS!!! IF I HAD A JUDGE WHO HAD ACTUALLY PRACTICED FAMILY LAW AND WAS AT LEAST SOMEWHAT COMPETENT MY LIEN WPULD [sic] HAVE BEEN GRANTED!!!! SHE LET ALEXANDER SCREAM AT ME AND VERBALLY ABUSE ME. HE EVEN STOOD UP AND ALMOST LUNGED ACROSS THE TABLE AT ME!!! YOUR JUDGE DID NOTHING!!!! I HOPE THAT THERE IS A RECORDING OF THIS SHAM OF A HEARING!!!! YOUR BOSS LET A BABY KILLER AND MULTIPLE TIME CRIMINAL STEAL $6,000 FROM ME!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WILL GET EVERY SINGLE NEWS STATION INVOLVED!!!!! I WILL PAY $20,000 TO AIR THREE MINUTE ADS ABOUT HOW SHE SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ALLOWED TO HOLD SUCH AN HONORABLE POSITION AS JUDGE!!!! AND GUESS WHAT?!!! THAT BABY KILLER ALEX BLOCKED MY 4 PHONE NUMBER AND MY PARALEGALS [sic] PHONE NUMBER !!!!!! HE WILL NEVER PAY ME AND IT IS ALL CHRISTINA SERRANO’S FAULT!!!!

In the Spradley’s guilty plea, she “admits her statements in the email were false or made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. (Spradley’s) statements were prejudicial to the administration of justice, unprofessional, threatening, and designed to embarrass, burden, disparage, humiliate and harass Judge Serrano.”

Also, Spradley took the money, but didn’t run with cases from two clients, one who paid $1,500 and another who paid $2,106.

For these issues, Spradley is serving a suspension until Oct. 25, 2020.

Sabrina Spradley.jpg
Sabrina Spradley Florida Bar

Fort Lauderdale attorney Stuart Starr (University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law, admitted 1970) got a 90-day suspension in May 2018 for violating rules for excessive fees, improperly charging fees and failing to work “with reasonable diligence and promptness” for a client. This 91-day suspension, which started May 10, is for not complying with the notification requirements of that suspension.

Miami Beach attorney and condominium resident Peter Vujin (Univesity of Miami School of Law, admitted 2003) already was disbarred after what the Bar described as “frivolous, bad faith, annoying and abusive litigation tactics” in two cases detailed in a Jan. 20 Miami Herald story. When Vujin didn’t respond to the state Supreme Court’s order to show cause on Jan. 30, he was permanently disbarred.

West Palm Beach Ethan Wayne (Admitted 2007) asked for disciplinary revocation after being yet another attorney or doctor caught in the healthcare fraud involving Reflections Treatment Center and Smart Lab. Wayne was a managing partner for Smart Lab. Reflections worked healthcare fraud though substance abuse treatment. Smart Lab ran fluid testing.

According to court documents, Smart Lab paid kickbacks to clinic owners, such as Reflections’ Kenneth Chatman, for patient referrals for tests, whether or not they were necessary.

Wayne’s admission of facts says, “Smart billed private insurance companies as much as $6,200 for testing a single urine specimen and did not disclose to the insurers that the tests were solicited through the payments of bribes and kickbacks.”

The bribes and kickbacks were run through “sales representatives.”

In March 2016, “Wayne approved an agreement for Smart to pay outstanding insurance proceeds, that is, proceeds of the health care fraud scheme, that were due to persons pretending to be “sales representatives’‘ for the Reflections account,” his admission says. “Wayne approved a payment from Smart to M.H., one of these purported “sales representatives’‘ for Reflections, in the amount $85,000, which represented approximately 80% of the pending insurance proceeds related to testing of Reflections patients.”

Wayne pleaded guilty to engaging in a monetary transaction over $10,000 derived from healthcare fraud. He got three years’ probation, a $20,000 fine and has satisfied the forfeiture money judgment of $85,000. He can rejoin the Bar on April 25, 2024.

The first-person story of one woman’s experience with a debt relief scam – and the lawyer who helped her. The Federal Trade Commission deals is the federal agency with consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

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