California Bar Journal
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Once disbarred attorney resigns after cheating clients again
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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.

Basinger’s 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 Basinger’s clients. The embezzlement occurred in order “to pay (Basinger’s) 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 $150,000.

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 activities.

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 Basinger’s trial.

As a result of the misconduct, Leonard Basinger was disbarred in 1988.

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 Basinger’s “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 client.

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.