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Financial embezzlement in home purchases and the case of Toro

published January 17, 2009

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 188 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
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Citizens of New Haven County disagree on the matter. In May of last year a seven-member New Haven County bar admissions committee granted Toro reinstatement, or at least approved their portion of the reinstatement process. They did have their own reservations because the amount of money involved in the scheme was so much, totaling more than $1 million. Several lawyers and private citizens vouched for Toro in this meeting, either in person or by written statements, though, and the committee decided Toro was of no danger to the public and recommended him for reinstatement.

However, the second step was more important, and Toro failed to pass. After his favorable ruling in May came another hearing in July. This time is panel was made up of three instead of seven, but this time is was judges, not just a regular committee. On the panel sat Judges Linda Lager, Emmet Cosgrove, and Jonathan Silbert, and they were not as forgiving as the panel had been.

Perhaps Toro's mistake was in failing to assume full responsibility for his actions. The judges reviewed the history in full. At some point Toro decided to work with clients and represent both buyer and seller in a transaction. This way he was ultimately responsible for the paperwork. Toro admitted that several of these transactions contained false information, specifically on the worth of the homes involved in the sale. By falsifying the worth of the homes, Toro's clients were able to borrow more from the mortgage company, in this case EquiCredit (for whom Toro closed more than 300 transactions). When payments were not made to EquiCredit, the company lost more than $1 million.

Toro claimed that he was simply a victim. He claimed his clients were at fault and also claimed he had never even received any money for finalizing the documents. When his case went to court, however, it showed he had received payments of roughly $130,000. As stated before, Toro was convicted. He was sentenced to, and served, two years in prison; he was suspended from the practice of law (hence his attempts to be reinstated); and he had to pay $80,000 in restitution. Toro filled his sentence and paid the fine. Should that be enough to have him reinstated?

The three-judge panel thinks more is necessary. They were turned off by his apparent lack of remorse. Criminals in general are not sorry they did something wrong; they are merely sorry they were caught and punished for doing something wrong. While Toro served his time and paid his fine, the judges feel he should accept the blame for what he did wrong and not try to pass it off on someone else. They did not buy his story of being an innocent victim.

The judges said, ''Although he has acknowledged that his role as closing attorney was critical to the success of the scheme, he has sought to shift responsibility to those he claims concocted it.'' The judges still have reservations ''about whether he would do things differently if confronted with a similar situation in the future. This concern is enhanced because Toro seeks reinstatement primarily so that he can return to the practice of real estate law.''

Toro's attorney, William Gallagher, was angered and surprised at the judges' ruling. He found their decision to deny Toro's request for reinstatement ''mean-spirited'' and went on to explain that, since Toro is in his late sixties, ''turning him down at this stage means that's the end of his career.''

Of course the current state of the economy, especially in regards to mortgage and real estate, may not have been the best timing for Toro, but Gallagher thinks it unlikely that Toro will appeal nor reapply for reinstatement in six months as the state's rules allow.

Toro's failure to get reinstated could show a bleak future for other lawyers seeking reinstatement after wrongdoings in real estate. Only time will tell. Should lawyers not know better than to break the law they are supposed to defend? Why should they deserve special treatment? On the other hand, should everyone deserve a second chance? Maybe the key is to real remorse for wrongdoing, and not only being sorry because one is caught.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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published January 17, 2009

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 188 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.