Attorney receives Bar revocation after alleged misappropriation of client's settlement

By Kerry Goff | Aug 3, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – The Supreme Court of Florida filed a petition on May 19 for disciplinary revocation of attorney Richard John DeSanto, who practices in Fort Lauderdale.

TALLAHASSEE – The Supreme Court of Florida filed a petition on May 19 for disciplinary revocation of attorney Richard John DeSanto, who practices in Fort Lauderdale.

DeSanto submitted the petition for disciplinary revocation in March, agreeing to a revocation with the possibility of reapplying after five years over his alleged mishandling of a client’s awarded insurance claim.

The official document explained that DeSanto knowingly and voluntary submitted the petition with full knowledge of its effect. Because DeSanto has been a member of the Florida Bar since June 20, 1978, and has had no prior disciplinary or criminal history, he was able to petition for the established court decision.

DeSanto does have a current file in process, but it has not been fully resolved yet.

The file alleges that DeSanto was hired to represent client Marie Donze in a personal injury claim in August 2010.

“(DeSanto) settled the uninsured motorist claim in January 2011,” the report said. “(He) received settlement proceeds totaling $100,000 and placed same in his trust account.”

The report further states that DeSanto did not promptly inform Donze that the uninsured motorist claim had settled or that any settlement monies had been received. Almost four years later, in December 2014, DeSanto informed Donze that the claim had settled for $50,000.

After paying the contingent fees and other liabilities, DeSanto then remitted approximately $20,000 to Donze, the report states.

“It was not until Donze spoke to an insurance agent that she discovered that the uninsured motorist claim has actually settled for $100,000, which funds were received by (DeSanto),” the report said. “Immediately upon hearing of Donze's knowledge of the amount of funds actually received, (DeSanto) disbursed the full additional sum of $50,000 without deduction of any contingent fee, and separately paid Donze an additional $10,000 as compensation for interest and inconvenience.”

Based on the order of the court, DeSanto agreed to reimburse the Client’s Security Fund of the Florida Bar in the event of any payments imposed as a result of his misappropriation of moneys. He also agreed to reimburse the Florida Bar for costs incurred in the matter.

Furthermore, the Bar required a certain amount of oversight during his revocation.

“(DeSanto) agreed to permit the Bar to audit any and all trust accounts and any other accounts over which he has signatory as either an attorney-at-law, fiduciary, or trustee,” the report said. “(He) has provided the Florida Bar with a sworn financial affidavit.”

DeSanto must also notify the Bar of any change of address during a two-year period. He must keep the Bar advised as to his physical address in the event that he should use a post office box or other type of mail-drop service.

Based on the petition agreement, DeSanto was granted revocation of his membership in the Florida Bar by the court and the pending disciplinary case was dismissed. He will be able to reapply for admission in five years.

“The uncontested petition for disciplinary revocation, as provided by Rule 3- 7.12, Rules Regulating. The Florida Bar, with leave to seek readmission after five years, is granted subject to the continuing jurisdiction of this court,” the report said. “Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Petitioner shall fully comply with Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3-5.1(h). In addition, petitioner shall accept no new business from the date this order is filed until he is readmitted.”

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