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Disbarments
  1. JOHN WONGOO RHEE
  2. ROBERT BRUCE SERIAN
  3. JAMES CHESTER WESEMAN
  4. ANTONIA ITUEN WOGHIREN
  5. DAVID KIYOSKI ARASE
  6. JOSEPH EUGENE PETRILLO
  7. ANTHONY DENCIO AGPAOA
  8. DAVID LIN
  9. BENJAMIN DIEGO HELLEWELL
  10. VIVIAN C. SAN JOSE
  11. JACK R. WILLIS
  12. MICHAEL THOMAS MORRISSEY
  13. IVAN PEDRO C. PORTO
  14. WILLIAM LYNN SMITH, Jr.
  15. DAVID CHARLES JACQUOT

JOHN WONGOO RHEE [#114109], 55, of Los Angeles, was disbarred May 22, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay court-ordered sanctions.

Rhee was found culpable of seven counts of misconduct including failure to obey a court order, failure to report judicial sanctions, affixing a false signature to a document, seeking to mislead a judge, making a misrepresentation to a client and failure to inform a client of signifcant developments in a case.

In one of the matters he was disciplined for, Rhee moved forward with a client’s personal injury case even though he was about to begin a one-year suspension for a prior discipline. Not wanting to lose attorney fees from the case, he recruited another lawyer to assume a role in the case without the client’s knowledge and did not inform the client of his suspension. Rhee later signed the client’s name to a substitution-of-attorney form.

Rhee has three prior disciplines dating back to 1995. The earliest was for failing to perform, failing to promptly release a client’s file and failing to maintain client funds in trust. In 2007, he was suspended for failing to perform, failing to maintain client funds in trust and comingling personal funds in his client trust account. In 2010, he was suspended again for failing to timely comply with the requirements of rule 9.20 as well as several conditions of his probation.

As part of the most recent discipline, Rhee was ordered to pay $8,147.20 in sanctions.

ROBERT BRUCE SERIAN [#96170], 58, of Valencia, was disbarred May 22, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay restitution.

Serian was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to disciplinary charges against him. Under rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, an attorney can be disbarred if he or she does not move to have the default set aside within 180 days. In addition, the charges are deemed admitted.

Serian was found culpable of failing to maintain client funds in a trust account, misappropriating of client funds, issuing client trust account checks against insufficient funds, failing to obey a court order, failing to update his membership address and failing to cooperate in a State Bar investigation. Serian was ordered to pay $13,590 in restitution, plus interest, as well as $300 in court-ordered sanctions and $240 in outstanding fees.

JAMES CHESTER WESEMAN [#106684], 63, of Del Mar, was disbarred May 22, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Weseman was disbarred after his default was entered for failing to respond to charges that he did not comply with rule 9.20, as required by a 2011 disciplinary order. The bar moved to disbar him under rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure because he made no effort to set aside the default within 180 days. As a result, the charges were deemed admitted.

In the underlying matter, the State Bar Court found that Weseman’s discipline by the U.S.  Patent and Trademark Office amounted to professional misconduct. Weseman was found to have written two bad checks in connection with patent applications. He also failed to perform legal services competently by improperly withdrawing from representation.

ANTONIA ITUEN WOGHIREN [#208483], 48, of Riverside, was disbarred May 22, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay restitution.

Woghiren’s default was entered after she failed to respond to charges that she engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, charged an illegal fee, misappropriated money, failed to pay client funds promptly, failed to notify her client of the receipt of funds and failed to cooperate with a State Bar investigation. Woghiren also made misrepresentations to a client and the client’s former attorney that she was entitled to practice law when, in fact, she had been suspended for non-payment of bar dues.

Woghiren was ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution, plus interest.

DAVID KIYOSKI ARASE [#233705], 34, of Newport Beach, was disbarred May 24, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay restitution.

Arase stipulated to seven counts of misconduct. Six of the counts involved home loan modification matters specifically that Arase failed to promptly return unearned fees. He also failed to timely file a declaration confirming that he had complied with rule 9.20 as required by a prior disciplinary order. The State Bar approved the stipulation but in June 2012, the California Supreme Court returned the matter for further consideration.

After further consideration of the initial recommend discipline – one year of actual suspension – State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz concluded it was insufficient to protect the public and recommended that Arase be disbarred.

“Respondent caused significant harm to vulnerable and desperate clients,” Armendariz wrote. “By failing to return unearned fees that had been advanced to him … respondent deprived his clients of a total of $21,490 – a not insubstantial amount.”

Arase has two prior disciplines. In August 2011, he received a one-year stayed suspension and three years of probation for failing to refund unearned fees to a client who paid him $6,400 to obtain a loan modification. In March 2011, he received an actual two-year suspension for collecting illegal fees for loan modification services in states where he was not authorized to practice law.

Along with his disbarment, Arase was ordered to pay $21,490 in restitution, plus interest.

JOSEPH EUGENE PETRILLO [#58010], 73, of San Francisco, was disbarred May 31, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Petrillo’s default was entered on March 13, 2012 after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. The bar moved to disbar him because he did not seek to have the default set aside within 180 days.

The charges were deemed admitted: Petrillo failed to obey a court order and to comply with rule 9.20 as required by a 2011 disciplinary order.

Petrillo previously received a 30-day actual suspension for failing to pay sanctions imposed when he did not appear at a mandatory settlement conference and a subsequent hearing on an order to show cause. He did not pay the sanctions, nor did he cooperate with the bar’s investigation.

ANTHONY DENCIO AGPAOA [#189749], 62, of Mill Valley, was disbarred June 7, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay restitution.

Agpaoa was found culpable of 21 counts of misconduct in multiple client matters. They include failure to perform legal services with competence, failure to return client papers and property, moral turpitude, failure to account, failure to communicate, failure to obey a court order, failure to report sanctions, commingling of funds and failure to return unearned fees.

In one of the matters he was disciplined for Agpaoa repeatedly deposited non-client funds into his client trust account and made payments from the account for non-client expenses. In another, he failed to perform any work in a client’s immigration matter, did not return $300 in unearned fees and committed an act of moral turpitude by taking $1,500 from the client for filing fees but not filing anything on the client’s behalf. 

Agpaoa was ordered to pay $2,610 in restitution to his former clients, plus interest. In mitigation, Agpaoa had no prior record of discipline.

DAVID LIN [#174022], 45, of Davis, was disbarred June 7, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

On May 15, 2012, Lin was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. As a result, Lin was suspended and he was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 but he failed to file the required declaration of compliance. Lin stipulated that he broke the law resulting in his convictions and that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.

BENJAMIN DIEGO HELLEWELL [#263188], 35, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was disbarred June 13, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

Hellewell stipulated to misconduct in two loan modification matters. In one, Hellewell held himself out to be licensed to practice law in Wisconsin; in the other he held himself out to be licensed to practice in Georgia. Hellewell is not licensed in either state. By entering into agreements to practice law and collecting legal fees in states where he was not eligible to practice, Hellewell also collected illegal fees.

Hellewell committed similar misconduct for which he was suspended in 2012. He stipulated to misconduct in 20 loan modification cases, including practicing law in New York, Missouri, Massachusetts, Nevada, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, Wisconsin and New Mexico, despite only being licensed in California. The misconduct included failing to perform legal services competently, to refund unearned fees or protect his clients’ interests after termination, and collecting illegal fees.

In addition to his disbarment, Hellewell was ordered to pay $3,400 in restitution.

VIVIAN C. SAN JOSE [#222909], 48, of Corona was disbarred June 13, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay restitution.

San Jose stipulated to charging and receiving advanced fees for loan modifications in violation of state law. San Jose also formed a business arrangement with two non-lawyers whom she paid for client referrals in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, failed to perform legal services with competence, failed to return unearned advanced fees and failed to respond to clients’ reasonable inquiries about the status of their cases. San Jose allowed the two non-lawyers to market her bankruptcy services, sign bankruptcy representation engagement agreements and collect documents needed for each bankruptcy petition.

According to the stipulation, San Jose gradually allowed the non-attorneys’ control of the business to increase as she became preoccupied with her father’s cancer treatment. Despite receiving advanced fees from her bankruptcy clients, San Jose performed no services of value and did not return any of their money.

San Jose also received a three-year actual suspension in May of 2012 after stipulating to misconduct in 30 client matters including failures to perform, fee splitting, aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law, moral turpitude, failures to refund unearned fees, charging illegal advanced fees and failure to disclose a potential conflict to a client.

San Jose was ordered to pay $20,984 in restitution, plus interest.

JACK R. WILLIS [#43789], 73, of Los Angeles, was disbarred June 13, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Willis stipulated to misappropriating money from settlements he received on behalf of clients in two personal injury matters. In one of the cases, Willis misappropriated $18,388.87 of a couple’s settlement money, failed to maintain funds in a client trust account and did not tell the couple for more than two years that they had received the settlement. In the other matter, Willis stipulated to misappropriating $16,594.93 and failing to maintain funds in a client trust account.

Willis was previously disciplined on two occasions. In 1999, the California Supreme Court suspended him for 60 days for making material misrepresentations to opposing counsel. In 1992, he was suspended for 60 days, stayed, for misconduct in four cases: for acquiring an adverse interest in a client’s property; abandoning a client and failing to promptly pay settlement funds to a client; failing to perform in a client matter and failing to pay a court-ordered sanction; and failing to return a client’s file and provide an accounting to the client.

MICHAEL THOMAS MORRISSEY [#62195], 64, of Cupertino, was disbarred June 14, 2013 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

The State Bar Court found that Morrissey was culpable of disobeying a court order issued by the hearing department of the State Bar Court during his fourth disciplinary hearing; that he acted with moral turpitude by falsely declaring under penalty of perjury that he had complied with the order; that he failed to perform competently in a client matter; and failed to cooperate with a State Bar investigation.

Morrissey sought review claiming, among other things, that the hearing judge made procedural and evidentiary errors, that he did not disobey the order and that the State Bar’s discipline process is unconstitutional.

A three-judge review panel upheld all of the hearing judge’s findings but also found Morrissey culpable of failing to perform competently.

Morrissey has four prior records of discipline, much of it attributable to drug and alcohol abuse. For example, in 2002 and 2003 he was convicted of four alcohol-related crimes, including a hit and run that occurred while he was under the influence of drugs. Morrissey asked to participate in the Alternative Discipline Program, which he completed, and received a six-month actual suspension. The judge allowed Morrissey to serve the suspension in three, 60-day suspension periods. After the second period of suspension, Morrissey filed an inaccurate compliance declaration that led to his current discipline.

According to the panel, Morrissey demonstrated “a disturbing pattern involving disrespect for clients and the judicial process, and an utter disregard for his professional responsibilities.

 “In view of the factors that are unique to this case, disbarment is warranted and necessary to protect the public, the courts and the legal profession,” the panel wrote in its disbarment recommendation. “Morrissey has failed to meet his professional obligations for nearly two decades in five separate disciplinary proceedings. Overall, he has demonstrated at least ‘pervasive carelessness’ toward his practice and compliance with ethical rules since 1992.”

IVAN PEDRO C. PORTO [#129629], 58, of San Diego, was disbarred June 7, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

Porto’s default was entered after he failed to respond to the notice of disciplinary charges filed against him. Under rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, a lawyer can be disbarred if he or she does not have the default set aside within 180 days. In addition, the charges are deemed admitted.

Porto was found culpable of two counts of charging advanced fees for loan modification work, three counts of charging an illegal fee and failing to perform with competence and the unauthorized practice of law in another jurisdiction. He was ordered to pay $7,147.50 in restitution to his former clients, plus interest.

Porto has two prior disciplines. In 2012, his probation was revoked and he was placed on one year of suspension for failing to comply with probation conditions attached to a 2010 disciplinary order. He failed to call the probation office to schedule a required meeting, file his first quarterly probation report or notify the probation office of changes to his address and phone number.

In the underlying discipline, Porto stipulated that he failed to perform legal services competently in two matters.

WILLIAM LYNN SMITH, Jr. [#242143], 37, of Glendale, was disbarred June 7, 2013 and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to pay sanctions.

Smith’s default was entered after he  failed to respond to charges that he failed to obey a court order, failed to cooperate with a State Bar investigation, and made a misrepresentation to  the State Bar. Rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure provides that a lawyer can be disbarred if he or she does not have the default set aside within 180 days. The charges are also deemed admitted.

In one of the matters he was disciplined for Smith failed to pay $6,034.50 in sanctions to a law firm and $1,800 in sanctions to the plaintiffs in a civil case. Smith failed to respond to a complaint made to the State Bar about his failure to pay the sanctions and then misrepresented to a State Bar investigator that he paid the sanctions when he actually had not.

DAVID CHARLES JACQUOT [#208690], 51, of Dalton Gardens, Idaho, was summarily disbarred June 7, 2013 and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

Jacquot was convicted in 2012 of one felony count of filing a false tax return.

. Caution!  More than 200,000 attorneys are eligible to practice law in California. Many attorneys share the same names. All discipline reports are taken from State Bar Court documents and should be read carefully for names, ages, addresses and bar numbers. Read the Discipline Key for an explanation of the different levels of disciplinary action. Use Attorney Search to check an attorney's official bar membership record.