Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent Florida Supreme Court Order permanently disbarring a lawyer who stole client funds, abandoned clients, failed to participate in Bar disciplinary proceedings, and then disappeared. The case is: The Florida Bar v. Jose Angel Toledo, Case No.19-1786. The May 14, 2020 SC Order is here: https://lsg.floridabar.org/dasset/DIVADM/ME/MPDisAct.nsf/DISACTVIEW/C5EEC8536A20EDCB85258569000AEEBD/$FILE/_13.PDF
The lawyer was the subject of over 30 Florida Bar complaints filed by clients and a medical provider. The complaints stated the lawyer stopped responding to the client’s requests for information and failed to disburse funds that he received for settlements. The Florida Supreme Court previously suspended the lawyer indefinitely for engaging in conduct that “appears to be causing great public harm.”
According to the Report of Referee, which is here: https://lsg.floridabar.org/dasset/DIVADM/ME/MPDisAct.nsf/DISACTVIEW/A3FBF54D12A4CBAD852584FD001103D7/$FILE/_9.PDF
The bar’s investigation of these matters indicated respondent has abandoned his law practice without notice to his clients and without taking reasonable steps to protect their interests. The respondent ceased all communication with his clients and has failed to distribute settlement funds to clients or third parties. Respondent has failed to respond to any of the client complaints as required by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.”
Respondent has forfeited, permanently, his privilege to practice law in the state of Florida by abandoning his practice and failing to participate in these proceedings. There has been an overwhelming finding of this court that the unrebutted evidence is clear, indisputable, repeated, and voluminous. Respondent, for whatever independent reason for doing so, has abandoned his privilege to practice law. He has provided no explanation and has made no attempts to redress the harm to his clients. Instead, without any notice or warning, he abandoned his clients and his practice. The record of each client that this court has reviewed clearly and unequivocally established this. He also took all money out of his client trust account(s) and absconded with it, and that was not his money to take. See The Florida Bar’s Sanctions Exhibit 1. Respondent was given appropriate notice and was given the opportunity to appear and respond beyond what was legally required, and yet respondent abandoned his duties to his clients, The Florida Bar, and the citizens of this state. This court finds clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly that respondent violated The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and permanent disbarment is the only appropriate sanction in this case.
The Supreme Court approved the Report of Referee and permanently disbarred the lawyer. According to media reports, the lawyer is the former husband of state representative Jackie Toledo and they were divorced in October 2019. The lawyer was ordered to pay her $20,000 a month in family support; however, he owes his ex-wife more than $100,000.00. An arrest warrant has been issued for related to his failure to pay family support and his former wife’s lawyers said in a court document filed in August that they believe he may have left the country.
Bottom line: This lawyer was fund to have stolen client funds and abandoned clients. He then disappeared and failed to participate in the Bar disciplinary proceedings, and was permanently disbarred.
Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2999 Alt. 19, Suite A
Palm Harbor, Florida
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670