SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 22 ATTORNEYS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2019
The Florida Bar

SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 22 ATTORNEYS

Summaries of orders issued June 6 – Aug. 22, 2019

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 22 attorneys disbarring six, revoking the licenses of three, suspending 10 and reprimanding three. Three attorneys received additional discipline. Two had periods of probation and two were ordered to pay restitution. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 107,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Alexander Charles Annunziato, 12865 W. Dixie Highway, North Miami, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from an Aug. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Annunziato was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance after attempting to purchase from an undercover detective.  Thereafter, Annunziato was accepted into the drug court program.  Upon his successful completion of the program, all criminal charges are expected to be dropped.  (Case No. SC19-1230)

Gregory Vance Beauchamp, P.O. Box 1129, Chiefland, disciplinary revocation effective immediately following an Aug. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Beauchamp misappropriated more than $200,000 of client funds from his trust account.  (Case No. SC19-640)

Christopher M. Chestnut, 301 W. Bay St., Suite 1400, Jacksonville, permanently disbarred effective immediately following an Aug. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) In four combined grievance files, Chestnut was found guilty of failing to communicate with his clients and failing to diligently pursue their cases. He also made misrepresentations. As Chestnut is already disbarred, his permanent disbarment was effective immediately. (Cases No. SC18-1614)

James M. Corrigan, 700 S. Palafox St., Suite 200K, Pensacola, suspended effective immediately, following a June 6 court order, and a referee ordered appointed to make a recommendation as to discipline. Corrigan was adjudicated guilty in Escambia County Circuit Court of the felony charge of racketeering and sentenced to 34.5 months in state prison. (Case No. SC19-927)

Orlando Delgado, 8522 SW 102nd St., Miami, suspended for three years, effective nunc pro tunc to March 25, 2018, following a July 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Delgado engaged in a short sale transaction in which his ex-wife was the seller and a limited liability corporation in which Delgado held exclusive ownership interest was the buyer. Four years later, ownership was transferred to Delgado.  The short sale was required to be arms-length, but Delgado’s interest in the limited liability corporation was not disclosed to the lender.  Additionally, Delgado failed to timely respond to the Bar’s official inquiries regarding the matter. (Case No. SC18-813)

Joseph I. Harrison, 806 S. Douglas Road, Suite 200, Coral Gables, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 60 days from July 1, following an Aug. 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) The Bar received an insufficient funds notice regarding two checks issued from Harrison’s trust account. Harrison said the checks had been paid and no clients harmed. After the Bar issued subpoenas to audit his trust account, Harrison submitted a Petition for Disciplinary Revocation. (Case No. SC19-1121)

Natalie Michelle Hutchinson, 6574 N. State Road 7, Coconut Creek, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from and Aug. 22 court order and after afterward placed on probation for three years. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Hutchinson represented a client in a medical malpractice case and a personal injury case. She allowed the statute of limitations to run on the medical malpractice case, withdrawing from representation days before it expired and not responding to the client’s emails or phone calls. Responding to the Bar, Hutchinson falsely stated that the statute of limitations was four years, instead of two years. (Case No. SC19-605)

Daniel Stephen Lapina, 1300 N. Semoran Blvd., Suite 215, Orlando, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from an Aug. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) The Bar received notice that a check drawn on Lapina’s law office trust account was dishonored because of insufficient funds. A compliance audit revealed Lapina failed to maintain the account in substantial compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, resulting in shortages. (Case No. SC19-991)

John Arthur Leklem, 133 E. Marks St., Suite, A, Orlando, public reprimand by publication, restitution and two-year probation, effective immediately following an Aug. 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1976) Leklem represented a homeowners’ association and failed to diligently handle the case and to maintain clear and adequate communication. In a second matter, The Florida Bar’s audit of his trust account revealed technical violations, but no evidence of misappropriation, and no client lost any money. (Case No. SC19-159)

Scott Maddox, P.O. Box 10768, Tallahassee, suspended 30 days from an Aug. 15 court order and a referee ordered appointed to recommend discipline. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Maddox pleaded guilty to three felonies in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The charges related to Maddox’s role as city commissioner and a co-defendant paying him on behalf of companies to influence votes in their favor. (Case No. SC19-1373)

 Moein Marashi, 400 N. Ashley Drive, Suite 1100, Tampa, permanently disbarred, effective immediately following an Aug. 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Marashi misappropriated at least $84,772 of a client’s funds in a wrongful death lawsuit. He was arrested and held in contempt of court by a 13th Circuit Court judge. (Case No. SC18-2097)

Brett Allen Mearkle, 547 Selva Lakes Circle, Atlantic Beach, disbarred, effective immediately, following a July 25 court order, and ordered to pay $2,500 restitution to one client. (Admitted to practice: 2003) Mearkle was hired and paid $2,500 to handle a business bankruptcy. He failed to file the case and communicate with the client. In another case, after appearing for a client in federal court, Mearkle subsequently failed to appear in court and did not communicate with his client. In both cases, he did not respond to court inquiries and grievance complaints. (Case No. SC19-110)

Paula Elisabeth Pratt, 401 W. Fairbanks Ave., Suite 100, Winter Park, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from an Aug. 8, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Pratt had shortages in her trust account and commingled trust funds with operating funds. The Bar’s audit also revealed technical trust account violations. Pratt handled her firm’s administrative and financial affairs, and her law partner was unaware of the shortages. Pratt’s partner removed her from the firm’s trust account and retained a CPA to perform bi-monthly reviews. All shortages were refunded. (Case No. SC19-1240)

Michael Joseph Presutti, 980 Elm St., Oviedo, publicly reprimanded, by an Aug. 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Presutti represented the personal representative in an estate proceeding involving considerable litigation. The probate court assessed the full amount of the opposing party’s attorney’s fees and costs against Presutti personally, but not his client. In his appeal, Presutti included his client in the style of the appeal without obtaining a waiver from the client of the conflict of interest created by inclusion as an appellant. The appellate court granted the opposing party’s motion for attorney’s fees against Presutti and his client. (Case No. SC19-1225)

Albert W. Pucylowski, 501 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite E, Orlando, disbarred, effective immediately following an Aug. 1 court order. The court had ordered an emergency suspension Feb. 13. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Pucylowski abandoned his law practice without protecting his clients’ interests. In three separate matters, his failure to appear in court caused arrest warrants to be issued for his clients. In addition, Pucylowski did not participate in disciplinary proceeding. (Case No. SC19-190)

Natt Owen Reifler, 2100 Alafaya Trail, Suite 201, Oviedo, publicly reprimanded by publication and directed to attend Ethics School, effective immediately following an Aug. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Reifler self-reported that his former firm’s trust accounts were not in substantial compliance with The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. While listed as a partner of the firm, Reifler was not a signatory on the trust accounts. He did not exercise reasonable diligence to determine the compliance of the firm’s trust accounts. (Case No. SC18-1598)

Michael Anthony Saracco, 520 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from an Aug. 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) In his brief regarding a trial court’s findings, Saracco made what appeared to be a material misrepresentation and did not correct this when opposing counsel pointed it out. In response to the 5th District Court of Appeal’s order to show cause why he should not be sanctioned, Saracco provided a written apology, assuring the court his conduct was not intentional and would not be repeated. The court entered an order accepting his apology. (Case No. SC19-1217)

Bonne Zell Scheflin, 6099 Stirling Road, Suite 105, Davie, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days from an Aug. 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) During an extended absence because of illness, Scheflin permitted her office manager to run her title company with minimal oversight and supervision. The office manager misappropriated more than $400,000 from Scheflin’s trust account. (Case No. SC19-1268)

William Jason Scheil, 1107 Lintz Lane, Lady Lake, disbarred effective immediately, following a July 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Scheil engaged in felony criminal conduct involving drug possession. In disciplinary proceedings, he failed to appear for scheduled case management conferences, respond to the Bar’s discovery requests, and appear for the scheduled sanction hearing. (Case No. SC19-130)

Jeffrey Robert Thibault, P.O. Box 341434, Tampa, suspended effective 30 days from an Aug. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Thibault failed to respond to official Bar inquiries and the Bar filed a Petition for Contempt and Request for Order to Show Cause. The Florida Supreme Court issued an Order to Show Cause and Thibault failed to respond. (Case No. SC19-565)

Eric Allen Waraftig, P.O. Box 110572, Hialeah, disbarred effective immediately following an Aug. 1 court order (Admitted to practice: 1996) Waraftig was adjudicated guilty for federal felony convictions of wire fraud and conspiracy. (Case No. SC18-1606)

Michael L Wolowitz, 2600 Island Blvd., Apt. 2406, North Miami Beach, suspended for one year effective 30 days from a July 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Wolowitz accepted fees from three clients but provided insignificant services and inadequately communicated with the clients. Additionally, he had insufficient fund payments from his trust account and did not respond to repeated inquiries from the Bar. (Case No. SC19-153)

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