State Bar Charges Lawyer With Participating in Allegedly Unlawful Student Debt-Relief Effort
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar of California yesterday announced the institution of disciplinary charges against an attorney who allegedly participated in a nationwide student loan debt relief operation that netted nearly $12 million.
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel on Aug. 3 filed a notice of disciplinary charges against Costa Mesa lawyer Gregory Daniel Trimarche of the law firm of Cooksey Toolen. Last Thursday, Trimarche filed an answer in which he denied the allegations of wrongdoing in each of the four counts.
The notice alleges:
“In or about April 2015, at the request of non-attorneys Rick Graff (‘Graff’) and Buddy Sievers (‘Sievers’) respondent initiated, with Graff and Sievers, a debt relief operation to provide legal services to clients with student loan debt who were seeking to negotiate or reduce their student loan debt. At the time, respondent had no prior legal experience in providing debt relief services to clients, but agreed to form a ‘factoring’ company with Graff and Sievers—GST Factoring, Inc. (‘GST’)—in which all three principals were equal one-third shareholders and provided oversight in the administration of the Debt Relief Operation in various respects. At all relevant times, GST was not a law firm.”
Under the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”), it recites, debt relief organizations may not collect advance payments from clients and, after negotiating a revision of the debt terms may not receive recompense until the debtor has made at least one payment under the new agreement..
The notice declares that “the collection of the $11.8 million in total fees from the clients by GST and the Attorneys was illegal” because requirements of the TSR were not observed. It also asserts that Trimarche assisted in the unauthorized practice of law and assisted others in violating the TSR and the Rules of Professional Conduct.
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