An Orange County attorney, disbarred in 1988 for
stealing client funds and later reinstated, has resigned after being charged again with
bilking clients. LEONARD DALE BASINGER [#52200], 55, pleaded not guilty
in January to six counts of felony grand theft for stealing more than $250,000 from client
trust accounts. He also was charged with seven counts of cashing Social Security checks
which had been issued to a deceased individual.
A 13-count criminal complaint accused Basinger of stealing $280,000
from four clients and the U.S. government between December 1995 and October 1997.
Basingers wife and secretary, Valynda, pleaded guilty to four
counts of felony grand theft, explaining in a written statement that she helped her
husband to transfer client funds from the trust accounts and misled Leonard Basingers
clients. The embezzlement occurred in order to pay (Basingers) gambling debts,
she said. Valynda Basinger, who faces up to five years in prison, has agreed to cooperate
with the prosecution.
Basinger resigned from the bar Jan. 13.
Orange County deputy district attorney Ken Chinn said Leonard
Basinger faces a possible sentence of eight years in prison. Two years of the sentence are
the result of an excessive taking allegation, involving the theft of more than
Basinger, a general practitioner, was convicted in 1985 of stealing
more than $260,0000 in partnership and client trust funds. The Basingers, who were not
married at the time, forged signatures on checks from March 1980 to July 1981. Although
Leonard Basinger made restitution, he did so only after his partner discovered his
Basinger was convicted of one count of grand theft, with an
additional punishment for taking property in excess of $100,000.
The conviction was overturned on appeal, but Basinger later pleaded
guilty to one count of grand theft and served six months in county jail. Valynda Basinger
pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft and testified at Leonard Basingers trial.
As a result of the misconduct, Leonard Basinger was disbarred in
He sought reinstatement three years later, testifying that he was a
changed man as a result of a prison term, psychotherapy, and marriage and fatherhood. His
treating psychiatrist told the court Basinger had overcome a gambling problem and no
longer had the urge to gamble.
State Bar Court Judge Christopher Smith recommended reinstatement,
noting that Basingers sustained exemplary conduct over an extended period of
time has demonstrated successful rehabilitation.
In the new case, Basinger alleg-edly created client trust accounts to
hold his clients funds, but then withdrew the money without their knowledge. The
allegation of theft of Social Security checks reportedly involved the estate of one
Authorities would not say how many checks allegedly were cashed or
what the total amount was.
Basinger received his law degree from Southwestern School of Law and
first joined the bar in 1972. He worked as a deputy district attorney for two years before
joining a personal injury firm where the first round of misconduct occurred.
Since his reinstatement, he has practiced in Newport Beach, Santa
Ana, Irvine and Orange.
Trial had not been scheduled for Basinger at press time; his wife is
to be sentenced March 3.