Thursday, August 4, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Lawyer Without a License
Tonight there is one less lawyer practicing in South Florida. He's a "lawyer without a license" because the state Supreme Court has suspended him after he was accused of doing "great public harm." Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with the exclusive.
It wasn't a good week for William O'Toole. First his law license was suspended and then 7News caught up with him.
William O'Toole: "No comment."
He wasn't talking, but his clients are.
Lee Perkins: "They kept asking for money and we kept giving it to them, and we never did see any results, you know."
Edna and Lee Perkins may lose their home after doing business with O'Toole.
They ended up at his summit legal group which operates from this Boca Raton office.
They say they paid more than four thousand dollars expecting legal help for a loan modification.
Lee Perkins: "We had to go to court and they didn't even show up."
As a result the bank foreclosed and their home was sold. Attorney Daniel Rose is helping the couple and filed a motion that put the sale on hold for now. He says they're not alone.
Daniel Rose: "This week alone I've had four people come to my office and they brought files, and they thought they were represented, and there is nothing filed on the docket, and yet thousands of dollars have been paid for absolutely nothing."
Wendy Perkins is one of those people. Perkins says she wasn't behind in her payments, just a bit pinched, and wanted to get a better mortgage. She so believed in summit legal group she says she even brought in other customers and was paid to do so. But after following advice from summit legal group, her home was sold in a foreclosure action.
Wendy Perkins: "So I have a lot of money invested in this home."
Carmel Cafiero: "And it's all gone?"
Wendy Perkins: "And it's all gone because these guys in Boca Raton told me that they could help me."
The guys: William O'Toole's summit legal group. She says she went to their office after learning her home had been sold.
Wendy Perkins: "I came here with a home and I'm about to be homeless, what am I going to do? And William O'Toole stood there and said 'You're on your own.' and he walked out the door."
Wendy Perkins: "I'm counting down the days and my kids are looking at me and I don't know what to do. I'm sorry."
When I tried to talk with O'Toole about these cases, this misery, he was stone faced.
Carmel Cafiero: "We've talked with people who say they may be losing their homes because of doing business with your company and you have nothing to say?"
Complaints have come in from clients across the county about O'Toole and his business practices. As a result, the Florida bar, which regulates attorneys, filed this petition with the Florida Supreme Court asking that O'Toole's licensed be suspended because he "...Appears to be causing great public harm..."
According to the complaint, O'Toole is "allowing non-lawyers to improperly solicit clients ... on a nationwide basis despite the fact that he can only practice law in the state of Florida."
That "...He does not supervise or train any of the non lawyers ..." and that "...He allows almost exclusive control of the office to non-lawyers..."
The complaint also claims O'Toole has so many clients, 2500 to 3000, that he doesn't know their status.
When we tried to question him, O'Toole was having trouble with a gas pump.
He was clearly frustrated.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think that's how some of your customers might feel some of the clients that you have?"
The Florida Supreme Court suspended O'Toole from the practice of law as a result of all this.
Among other things he has been ordered to provide copies of his suspension order to all of his clients and he is not allowed to access business bank accounts without permission from the court.
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