February 26, 2024

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Equality opinion

Texas law firm stole tens of millions from shoppers, lawsuits allege

A Texas lawyer is facing mounting accusations that he has stolen millions of pounds from customers.

At the very least 10 lawsuits have been submitted towards legal professional Christopher “Chris” Pettit in state district court docket in San Antonio and elsewhere in excess of the previous nine months. The most new was Wednesday.

John Muller, a San Antonio lawyer symbolizing a woman who suggests in a court submitting that Pettit “absconded” with about $2.8 million that belongs to her, believed the quantity of shopper dollars associated tops $40 million. He centered that on discussions he’s experienced with other attorneys.

“Chris has embarrassed himself, and truly our complete lawful career,” Muller reported. “There are a variety of really able attorneys, including myself, who are focused to guaranteeing that all of the victims obtain restitution.”

Neither Pettit nor his attorneys straight away responded to requests for remark Thursday. Pettit has specified basic denials to the allegations in responses to some of the lawsuits.

Fort Really worth lawyer Craig Crockett has sued Pettit and his business on behalf of a client who alleged they stole more than $950,000 — the client’s complete inheritance.

“There’s a surefire way to get your ticket punched as a lawyer, and that is stealing consumer money,” Crockett stated. “You’re done” working towards law.

“This male did not just borrow a minimal funds from a consumer and failed to spend it again,” Crockett added. “This is a Ponzi scheme.” Pettit has employed a person client’s dollars to shell out a different consumer back on at the very least two events, Crockett reported.

San Antonio attorney Sean B. McNelis, who signifies a New Braunfels homebuilder suing Pettit and his business, said he’s been contacted by the FBI as component of an investigation into Pettit. No felony circumstances are pending in opposition to Pettit.

Pettit graduated from St. Mary’s College University of Legislation in 1988. He has been in personal exercise specializing in estate-planning and individual-injury law, according to his firm’s website.

Allegations

The Point out Bar of Texas publicly reprimanded him in 2012 after finding he “failed to make sure that his non-law firm associate’s carry out was appropriate with the skilled obligations of a lawyer.” It fined him $850.

The point out bar doesn’t remark on regardless of whether there may be pending issues from a lawyer. But McNelis claimed he’s shared “a range of records” with the state bar’s disciplinary portion.

“I was explained to by the point out bar that this is 1 of the premier instances of lawyer malfeasance and theft that they’ve ever encountered,” McNelis stated.

On HoustonChronicle.com: How Texas couple gained 2-12 months struggle towards Bank of The usa, credit score bureaus more than credit card fraud

Some of the civil lawsuits alleged he applied consumer dollars for his “personal benefit” and commingled shopper believe in fund income with other money. None involves particulars of how Pettit allegedly invested his clients’ income. But Muller claimed he appreciates Pettit owns a mansion in Orlando, Fla., that is on the marketplace for about $8.5 million, as nicely as a single in the Alamo Heights community of San Antonio.

Pettit has been accused of keeping away from clientele with “excuses.” Emails attached to one particular lawsuit mentioned Pettit experienced professional medical troubles, with the shopper consistently instructed he’d be again in the business office the subsequent week.

Thus much, a couple of of Pettit’s shoppers have been capable to reach in-court settlement agreements.

Settlements attained

Crockett said he just acquired a $1.5 million agreed judgment for his shopper, however it had not been entered with a court docket in Tarrant County.

Court documents demonstrate Dr. Salvador Ortiz entered into an agreed judgment with Pettit and his company on March 18. State District Decide Laura Salinas in San Antonio ordered Ortiz can recover nearly $2.9 million in genuine damages and just about $8.7 million in punitive damages.

Ortiz had retained Pettit for estate preparing, including producing a will and forming two trusts. The medical professional alleged Pettit misappropriated about $10.9 million but paid out back $8 million ahead of the payments stopped, prompting the doctor to sue.

Final month, condition District Decide David A. Canales in San Antonio signed off on an agreed judgment that James and Gennifer Horan attained with Pettit and his firm. The pair alleged they deposited more than $900,000 in an escrow account with the agency. The income was earmarked for design of a property in Comal County.

Previously this year, the Horans approved a withdrawal from the account to JLP Builders Inc., the New Braunfels homebuilder. But they say Pettit’s firm never ever compensated the dollars, so they sued for fraud and “felony theft.”

The Horans’ agreed judgment is for $908,148 in genuine damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

JLP Builders submitted its possess lawsuit in March, alleging it deposited a number of customers’ construction resources with Pettit for “safekeeping.” Pettit has refused to release the resources, creating project delays, it claimed.

Pettit also was supposed to be holding the settlement resources — just less than $1 million — from a client’s divorce, mentioned Michael Gayler, who is now representing the female.

“We don’t seem to be to be equipped to get those cash,” Gayler said, adding he does not know what could have occurred to the funds. “On behalf of my client, I am deeply concerned. We obviously are possessing issues receiving a resolution, but I’m seeking to do the job with Mr. Pettit’s lawyers.”

Crockett expects his client’s $1.5 million judgment will be value “cents on the dollar” when Pettit and/or his organization enter bankruptcy, which he said is “imminent.”

“My client will hardly ever be created entire,” Crockett reported.