Tuesday, September 13, 2011
State Bar Charges Northern California Lawyer With Stealing, Fraud
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Northern California lawyer, previously indicted in federal court for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, was charged yesterday by the State Bar with 36 counts of misconduct.
Sean Patrick Gjerde’s victims “ranged from desperate clients seeking bankruptcy protection to a legal insurance provider,” the State Bar said in a release.
Gjerde, from Elk Grove near Sacramento, is accused of having misappropriated more than $80,000 from the beneficiary of a trust for which he served as trustee, engaged in a scheme to defraud a legal insurance provider, repeatedly violated a bankruptcy court order, performed incompetently, failed to return unearned fees, lied on court documents and forged the names of his partner and a client.
In one of the State Bar matters charged in the Notice of Disciplinary Charges Gjerde, 35, took over as the trustee for the Wheeler Trust. Over a period of almost two years, he misappropriated more than $84,000 from the trust, whose sole beneficiary was Renee Wheeler.
The main asset of the trust was a home in which the beneficiary resided. Gjerde is accused of having transferred the Wheeler home to himself and forced Wheeler out of her home.
When he didn’t pay the mortgage payments, a lien was put on the proceeds of the sale, bringing the worth of the house from $135,000 to $7,000, the State Bar said.
Gjerde, who had billed himself as an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to clients but
told a bankruptcy trustee he was not experienced, was ordered by the court not to take any bankruptcy cases without judicial permission. The State Bar claims he violated the court by continuing to take cases, but put fellow attorney James Chandler’s name on the court documents, and still did shoddy or incomplete work.
A hearing has been set for Sept. 28 before a bankruptcy judge in Sacramento on three contempt of court motions, the State Bar said.
Gjerde also is charged with billing ARAG, a legal insurance plan provider, for services he never performed. In June, Gjerde stipulated in a separate State Bar discipline matter to fraudulently billing ARAG and failing to reimburse clients for unearned fees and agreed to accept a 60-day actual suspension.
According to a federal indictment filed last year, Gjerde played a part in an elaborate scheme that defrauded banks and mortgage lenders of $5.5 million by providing false information about loan applicants’ employment and income. The 48-count federal indictment against 10 defendants includes charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and make false statements in mortgage applications.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company