TALLAHASSEE — Following a petition for emergency suspension filed with the Florida Supreme Court, Sarasota attorney William Robert Cohen will be suspended from the practice of law for an indefinite period of time.
The Supreme Court ordered the suspension at the request of the Florida Bar while it investigates several complaints made against the attorney, including his alleged misappropriation of nearly $100,000 in client funds.
The petition details four counts of misconduct against Cohen, the first of which began in February 2012. The attorney was hired to represent a man in a personal injury matter stemming from an automobile accident. The client and Cohen agreed the attorney would receive $15,000 for his services which would be taken from the settlement checks of $100,000 and $25,000 received on Sept. 14, 2012, and Sept. 24, 2012. Rather than release the remaining $110,000 to his client, Cohen allegedly transferred the funds from his client trust to one of his many accounts at Bank of America. The attorney later misappropriated nearly all of the client funds, court records state.
In May 2013, the attorney received a personal loan of $80,000, which he deposited into his client trust account, a violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, according to court documents. The deposit was allegedly made to cover a check issued by the attorney for $50,000 made prior to the personal loan wire transfer. However, the client he issued the $50,000 check to was entitled to an additional $60,000, which was not paid to her.
On Feb. 28, 2014, Cohen received a check for $75,000 on behalf of his client as settlement for a civil suit against an electric company. The attorney allegedly did not disperse the funds to his client, claiming that the legal fees incurred in the suit ranged between $37,000 and $40,000. The attorney then made several online transfers from the client trust account to his other Bank of America accounts and did not give the client the $35,000 owed to him, according to court documents.
The final count stems from the attorney’s alleged failure to cooperate with the Florida Bar’s audit of his accounts as a result of the complaints.
Cohen has practiced in Michigan and California and has been disciplined for separate issues in both states. The attorney is was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997 and is a graduate of the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. In Florida, Cohen had two prior instances of discipline: a suspension in August 2016 and an admonishment in October 2010.