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Ex-lawyer found guilty of three counts of fraud at his firm

|Written By Ron Stang

WINDSOR, Ont. — Disbarred real estate lawyer Scott Sullivan will go before a judge for sentencing on March 6 after the court found him guilty of five of 10 charges related to the withdrawal of as much as $300,000 from his former firm’s trust account for personal use.

On Friday, Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey found Sullivan guilty of three counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of breach of trust. He found him not guilty of one count of fraud over $5,000, one count of fraud under $5,000, two counts of uttering forged documents, and one count of breach of trust.

Sullivan, 43, whom the Law Society of Upper Canada disbarred at a penalty hearing in May for the misappropriation of funds and professional misconduct, had no comment for reporters on Friday.

He’s currently living alone and in “impecuniousness” in Kent County about an hour from Windsor, according to his lawyer Dan Scott. Sullivan had previously worked at Windsor law firm Sullivan Istl Bornais LLP.

The court released Sullivan on his own recognizance on conditions that he not leave the province or engage in any paralegal activity. He must also report to the Chatham-Kent police weekly.

Assistant Crown attorney Elizabeth Brown asked for a remand because of the “serious” nature of the charges. But Scott argued otherwise. “There has never been any question that he wouldn’t stand to answer these charges,” he said.

Brown didn’t say what length of incarceration she’d be asking for. “I have to look at all the case law before we determine that, but these are obviously very serious charges,” she said. “Fraud over $5,000, especially in a breach of trust situation with a lawyer, are very serious.”

As Brown noted, “it wasn’t really clear” what happened with the money taken from the account. “The evidence showed that Mr. Sullivan was taking draws but what he was using that draw money for never really was completely clear in the trial,” she said.

Sullivan’s defence pointed to his bookkeeper, Kristine Robinson-Limanek, who also did some paralegal work and is now a lawyer in Windsor, as responsible for the missing funds. But Brown said Carey found “that the buck stopped with [Sullivan].

The judge didn’t believe the evidence that he completely relied upon his assistant.”

For his part, Scott said he was surprised by Carey’s decision.

“He assessed credibility with respect to all the Crown witnesses in a manner that I found surprising, perhaps shocking, with respect to some of them,” he said, adding there will be discussions about the possibility of an appeal.

Scott suggested the case was ”much more complicated” than the judge indicated. He said the court “glossed over the fact” that Robinson-Limanek was the person who “set up the accounts, inserted the passwords . . . and certainly she had a great reason to distance herself from everything to do with this” because at the time she was seeking entry to the bar after completing law school.

“Because of her tenuous situation to get called to the law society, she had to be in a different galaxy in terms of distancing herself from anything,” said Scott.

According to Scott, the lesson is for lawyers “who are busy doing their practice to look over their bookkeeper’s shoulder because I can tell you there is a lawyer I’ve yet to speak to that watches what their bookkeepers do because there’s an element of trust there.”

While Scott called Robinson-Limanek’s credibility into question, Carey ruled “she had nothing to do with the transfers.” He noted she was in a position of “subordination” to Sullivan.

A letter by her read into the court indicated that she feared Sullivan, who had helped her with her law school tuition.

“For years, I endured physical and psychological abuse,” she wrote. She also acknowledged a sexual relationship with him that included beatings in the nude if she made mistakes.

Robinson-Limanek is now a paralegal instructor in Windsor.

For more, see "Windsor lawyer disbarred after misappropriating $1M from his firm."

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