Missing money, misused money and healthcare fraud put three South Florida attorneys on the most recent Florida Bar discipline report and out of the legal business for a while.
The Miami-Dade and Broward attorneys most recently disciplined by the state Supreme Court, in alphabetical order:
▪ A December emergency suspension order yanked the license of Coral Gables attorney Francisco Aguero (St. Thomas Law School, admitted to the Bar in 2000) until further notice. The Bar said it pursued the emergency suspension because he “appeared to be causing great public harm by his misappropriation of client trust funds.”
The Bar said Aguero’s trust account should have had approximately $135,000. Actual amount in the account: $36.97.
▪ Speaking of trust accounts, a $6,200 check written on the trust account of Margate’s Elaine Laura (Nova Southeastern Law, admitted 2001) bounced last April because, the Bar says, Laura misused money meant for the client’s medical expenses. The money was made up to the client.
In another matter, a client who was also a friend, according to Bar documents, had a falling out with Laura and claimed the lawyer neglected her case. Laura denied that charge.
Laura closed her private practice and trust account and applied for disciplinary revocation, the equivalent of being disbarred. She can apply to rejoin the Bar in January 2023.
▪ Fort Lauderdale’s Vincent Pravato (University of Florida Law, admitted 1996) was one of five attorneys and five solicitors arrested during a patient brokering scheme bust in September. The Broward Sheriff’s Office described the scheme:
Some personal injury attorneys paid people $500 to $1,500 per victim to solicit car accident victims to make insurance claims. The attorneys would refer that accident victim to a healthcare facility for a kickback of $1,500 to $2,500 per referral. And the healthcare facility would provide treatment, then bill the auto insurance company for claims covered by personal injury protection benefits.
Pravato pleaded guilty to patient brokering, communications fraud and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. He received five years’ probation, 250 hours’ community service and has to pay $16,000 in restitution. He is also suspended from the Bar until further notice.