Miami Lakes attorney John Michael Cruz has been suspended for 91 days following an Aug. 24 Florida Supreme Court order after allegations that included failing to file pleadings in a timely manner.
In two separate client matters, Cruz accepted fees in a bankruptcy and a foreclosure and then failed to communicate with his clients, according to the consent judgment filed with the court. The consent judgment also includes Cruz's unconditional guilty plea.
In the foreclosure, Cruz allegedly failed to obtain surplus funds of more than $192,000 for his client, funds that later were stolen by another attorney, according to the consent judgment.
The state court's two-page order also directed Cruz to pay a total of $4,000 in restitution to his two former clients and $1,250 in costs. The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the Supreme Court's order on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
Cruz's suspension was effective 30 days from the date of the order so that he could close out practice and protect the interests of existing clients. In Florida, court orders are not final until after time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion would not alter the effective date of the Cruz's suspension.
Cruz was admitted to the bar in Florida on Sept. 16, 1986, according to his profile at the state bar website. Cruz has had no other discipline before the state bar for at least 10 years, according to his profile. He is, however, delinquent in his state bar membership dues and was already ineligible to practice law in Florida, according to the consent judgment.
In the 2014 foreclosure case, Cruz’s client sent repeated text messages asking about the surplus funds, according to the judgment. Cruz's alleged dereliction in obtaining the funds left those funds unclaimed and they later were claimed and misappropriated by a surplus trustee attorney Nicholas Steffens, the consent judgment said.
Steffens pleaded no contest to four counts of grand theft March 9, 2016, and the following June was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 20 years probation, according to the consent judgment, which said, "There is no evidence that [Cruz] was aware of or complicit in that theft."