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Judge: Attorney misappropriated $3.5 million from elderly doctor

A State Bar Court hearing judge has recommended disbarment for a San Francisco Bay Area attorney found to have committed what was the single largest misappropriation in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel’s recent memory.

State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz found Wade Anthony Robertson culpable of four counts of misconduct for a phony investment scheme in which he misappropriated $3.5 million from an elderly man. The disbarment must be approved by the California Supreme Court before it goes into effect. Meanwhile, Armendariz ordered Robertson enrolled involuntarily inactive.

In her Sept. 4 decision, Judge Armendariz found Robertson [bar # 217899], 45, of Stanford, culpable of moral turpitude by engaging in a scheme to defraud, misrepresentation, misappropriation and of abusing the legal process. Armendariz also noted that Robertson has shown no remorse for his behavior, that he failed to admit any wrongdoing and that his misconduct occurred less than three years after he was admitted to practice law.

According to the decision, Robertson met then 77-year-old Maryland doctor William C. Cartinhour Jr. in September 2004 and convinced him to invest in a class action pending in federal court in New York, telling him it involved a multibillion-dollar claim. Robertson enticed Cartinhour to make additional investments, failing to tell him the case had been dismissed in 2005 and that he had been losing Cartinhour’s money by using it to finance his own investments.

Concerned he had been cheated, Cartinhour hired another attorney in 2009. After being questioned by Cartinhour’s new attorney, Robertson filed a lawsuit against Cartinhour. However, Cartinhour prevailed on a cross-claim for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty and was awarded $3.5 million in compensatory damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages in 2011.

In an effort to stall payment of the judgment, Robertson filed frivolous appeals as well as a meritless petition in bankruptcy court, which resulted in sanctions, Armendariz found.

“Not only did respondent deprive Cartinhour of his funds for years, but he continues to harm Cartinhour by prolonging the bankruptcy proceedings and forcing Cartinhour to remain involved in extensive litigation in order to enforce the judgment which he obtained against respondent,” Armendariz wrote. “These unnecessary and protracted legal proceedings have been time-consuming, costly, and burdensome for Cartinhour and the legal system.”

The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Counsel Robert A. Henderson and Senior Trial Counsel Sherrie B. McLetchie.

The State Bar does not keep statistics on attorney misconduct by amount of misappropriation. However, prosecutors could recall no other misappropriation cases in recent memory of that magnitude. Last year, Los Angeles attorney, Vafa Allan Khoshbin [bar# 165486] was disbarred after misappropriating $1.1 million from 10 clients.