Attorney disbarred for embezzling trust funds

A southern California attorney who was convicted of embezzling more than $200,000 from a trust for which he served as trustee was disbarred Sept. 19. KEVIN JAMES QUINN [#43639], 55, of Santa Monica had been on interim suspension since 1993 as a result of his 1992 conviction. Quinn was having financial difficulties at the time as a result of his divorce and expensive lifestyle. Over a 15-month period, he committed at least 51 acts of embezzlement, netting $217,594.38.

When the beneficiary of the trust, who suffered from mental disabilities, reported Quinn to the State Bar, he drafted fake promissory notes payable to the trust and provided them to his attorney to give to bar investigators. The notes were meant to represent that Quinn had borrowed but not stolen the money.

Quinn also tried to hide his embezzlement by telling the beneficiary’s psychiatrist that it was not in her best interest to terminate the trust.

The beneficiary sued Quinn, who stipulated to a $750,000 judgment and made restitution of more than $302,000.

The bar court review department considered several matters in aggravation. First, while Quinn was on interim suspension from practice as a result of the criminal conviction, he held himself out as entitled to practice as corporate counsel for a company.

In addition, Quinn borrowed money from a client. A $70,000 loan was secured by a deed of trust on a Palm Desert real estate parcel, but neither the deed nor the note was ever recorded.

When the note came due, Quinn did not pay it, but instead borrowed another $35,000 from the same client, and secured the note with his then-fiancee’s condominium in Playa del Rey. Again, neither the note nor the deed of trust was recorded. The property was then sold without the lender’s knowledge.

The notes were renewed, Quinn defaulted, and the lender discovered the deeds of trust had not been recorded and that the Playa del Rey property had been sold. Nonetheless, he renewed the notes again.

Quinn then sold the Palm Desert property without telling the lender and defaulted on the renewal notes.

The lender sued Quinn, spending $22,000 on legal fees after winning a judgment, but Quinn declared bankruptcy. Although a plea agreement required him to pay $35,000 in restitution to the lender, he eventually repaid $135,000, although he did not pay the man’s legal fees.

Quinn appealed the hearing judge’s disbarment recommendation to the bar court’s review department. It rejected his claim that the hearing department erred on five points, including unauthorized practice while suspended, limited mitigation for character witness testimony, community service and restitution, and a refusal to consider his financial and psychological problems.

The embezzlement alone was sufficient to warrant disbarment, the review department said. "All of these acts clearly involved moral turpitude and dishonesty," wrote Judge Kenneth J. Norian. "Therefore, they are of the most grievous and reprehensible nature. In fact, in reviewing past attorney discipline precedents, it is difficult to find one as serious as (Quinn’s) misdeeds in the (embezzlement) matter alone."

Quinn is not required to comply with rule 955 since he has been suspended for more than four years.