Florida Record

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Weeki Wachee attorney faces suspension, probation for allegedly mishandling trust

Discipline

By Karen Kidd | Jul 30, 2019


TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Longtime Weeki Wachee attorney Antonina Vaznelis faces suspension and probation following a July 3 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations she mishandled a trust, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Vaznelis was the successor trustee for a trust but was negligent in performing routine accountings for the trust’s assets and, as a result, failed to notice  a fraudulent charge against the trust’s bank account from an outside source," the state bar said in its July 26 announcement of the discipline and the court's order. "By the time Vaznelis performed an accounting of the trust's assets two years later, it was too late to recover the lost funds."

Vaznelis refunded the amount of the fraudulent charge, according to the announcement.

"The bar's ensuing audit of Vaznelis' law office trust account revealed technical record keeping violations," the announcement said. "Vaznelis’ misconduct violated the terms of her probation entered in a previous discipline case."

In its two-page order, the Supreme Court approved the uncontested referee's report filed in the matter before suspending Vaznelis for 60 days, followed by five years of conditional probation, and ordered her to pay almost $4,502 in costs.

Vaznelis' suspension will be effective 30 days from the date of the court's order to allow her time to close her practice and protect her existing clients' interests, according to the high court's order. Florida court orders are not final until time to file a rehearing motion expires.

Vaznelis was admitted to the bar in Florida on Dec. 19, 1990, according to her profile at the state bar website.

Vaznelis was publicly reprimanded and placed on five years' probation following a June 2014 Supreme Court order. In a consent judgment filed at the time, Vaznelis was alleged, over a period of many years, to have failed to timely marshal assets and administer trusts and estates. That consent judgment also included Vaznelis' conditional guilty plea.

A more recent consent judgment reached between Vaznelis and the state bar, which also includes Vaznelis' conditional guilty plea, notes that Vaznelis' alleged misconduct in the mishandled trust did not involve "any dishonest or selfish acts." Vaznelis also caught "earlier thefts" and that she "took reasonable steps to protect her client's funds in those two incidents," the consent judgment said.

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