Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Attorney Implicated in Embezzlement Agrees to Be Disbarred
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Newport Beach attorney charged with embezzling over $117,000 from a widow he represented in a trust matter has agreed to surrender his law license, State Bar prosecutors said yesterday.
Redmond Peter McAneny, 65, stipulated that he committed three acts of professional misconduct: misappropriation, failure to maintain client funds in trust and failure to promptly pay a client funds to which she was entitled. He also agreed to make restitution to his victim.
Chief Trial Counsel James Towery said he was “proud” of the negotiated outcome. “Attorneys who misappropriate funds from their clients deserve swift and firm discipline,” he remarked. “This is the classic example of an attorney abusing the trust of a client.”
McAneny admitted that he had deposited a settlement check for $117,924.32 in a client trust account for Deborah Slaybaugh, whom he represented from June 2007 to July 2008 in a case regarding her late husband’s life insurance policy, according to a release from the State Bar.
He said he told Slaybaugh she would receive her share of the proceeds after he paid attorney fees to the opposing party for drafting the settlement agreement, but he proceeded to deplete the account by writing himself numerous checks unrelated to the trust matter. McAneny never disbursed any funds to his client or any other person entitled to part of the settlement, and made a series of misrepresentations to Slaybaugh to hide his actions, the State Bar said.
Investigators for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office arrested McAneny last Monday. He was charged with one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement, with a sentencing enhancement for property damage exceeding $65,000, which carry a potential sentence of up to four years in state prison.
His attorney in the criminal case, Robert Hartmann, said that prosecutors charged McAneny with two additional counts of grand theft yesterday, involving two more alleged victims. Hartmann said he had not yet received any discovery regarding these new charges, but that he believed at least one of the victims was alleged to be another of McAneny’s former clients.
McAneny entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment yesterday, and a pretrial hearing has been set for January 13, Hartmann said.
Bail was set at $240,000, which represented the amount of the alleged loss, Hartmann said, adding that he was expecting McAneny to be released last night.
A spokesperson for the State Bar said the agency will be seeking court approval to take over McAneny’s practice and freeze his accounts to protect his clients. A message left on the voicemail for the telephone number McAneny registered with the State Bar was not returned yesterday.
This is McAneny’s second run-in with the State Bar. In 1993 he drew a stayed 90-day suspension and a year of probation for failing to preserve client funds in a trust account.
McAneny completed his undergraduate and legal education at Western State University before being admitted to practice in 1977.
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