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Behind the News: Vaunted attorney Conour has lots of explaining to do

Greg Andrews
May 23, 2012
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

For years, Bill Conour has been among the highest-profile attorneys in Indiana representing individuals seriously injured or killed in construction accidents. He’s won big settlements and judgments for his clients and been recognized by various organizations as a leader in personal-injury law.

So a large question looms in the wake of the April 27 announcement that Conour has been charged in a federal criminal complaint with misappropriating more than $2.5 million in client funds from December 2000 to March 2012. If the 64-year-old is indeed guilty of the wire-fraud charge he faces, where did all the money go?

To be sure, things look tight for Conour these days. On March 21, Salin Bank & Trust Co. sued Conour and his law firm in Hamilton Superior Court, seeking to foreclose on his home in Carmel’s swanky Bridlebourne subdivision, another home in Carmel’s Village of West Clay, and a farm in Sheridan.

The suit says Conour and his firm borrowed $950,000 from Salin in January 2011 and had ceased making payments by last fall. Including interest, Conour owes $1.06 million, the lawsuit alleges.
 

conour-bill-mug Conour

On May 1, four days after Conour surrendered to authorities and made his initial court appearance, Conour’s wife, Jennifer Conour, filed for divorce in Kosciusko Superior Court.

Richard Cox, an assistant U.S. attorney based in Urbana, Ill., leading the government’s case, declined to comment in detail. But an FBI affidavit filed in federal court accuses Conour of improperly shifting client funds for years to make ends meet.

The affidavit, signed by Special Agent Douglas Kasper, alleges a pattern of Conour’s using “newly obtained settlement funds to pay old settlements and debts. I believe this conduct is akin to a Ponzi scheme because Conour’s scheme to defraud is dependent on new settlement funds to provide funds for clients whose cases were previously settled and whose money was unlawfully converted by Conour for his own use and benefit.”

Conour did not return a message left at his law office in Parkwood Crossing on 96th Street. His attorney, Jim Voyles, declined to comment.

In his affidavit, Kasper said he received information in July 2011 that Conour was misappropriating client settlements by failing to fully fund trusts he had established for their benefit at Reliance Financial Services in Ohio.

Conour would put into a trust only enough to provide payments to his client for one year, according to Kasper’s affidavit, and would retain the bulk of the settlements “for his own purposes.”

In other instances, Conour kept client funds without even setting up a trust, according to the affidavit. As an example, Kasper describes at length Conour’s dealings with a man who was severely injured in a July 2010 construction accident.

In September 2011, Conour called the client and asked how a net settlement of $250,000 sounded to him. According to the affidavit, the client responded that he wasn’t interested in settling until his medical prognosis was fully determined.

Despite that guidance, the next month Conour left the client a voice mail saying “he believed a settlement of $250,000 was a fair amount” and that if Conour could negotiate that amount he would accept it on the client’s behalf, the affidavit says. Conour said on the call that the client should call him back if that was a problem.

The client did call back a few days later and reiterate he didn’t want to settle. But according to the affidavit, Conour had gone ahead and settled for $450,000 a few hours after leaving the voice mail. The check deposited into a Conour account at Stock Yards Bank bore the client’s purported endorsement, though the client denies signing it and didn’t even know the check existed, the affidavit said.

To this day, the affidavit says, the client has not received a penny from the settlement. Kasper said the Stock Yards account had only $3,640 in it before the $450,000 deposit. Within days, Conour transferred $168,000 into his law firm’s operating account and used $138,000 to pay American Express credit card bills.

The affidavit said other money went toward paying a settlement owed another client and to a law firm owed fees on an unrelated case.

Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch has released Conour on his own recognizance, on the condition that he not sell, transfer or dispose of personal or business assets without court approval.

If convicted, Conour faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.•

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This story was originally published in Indianapolis Business Journal, a sister publication to Indiana Lawyer.

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  • Horrible news!
    This man is a wolf in sheeps clothing! He deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars. While he spent money that didn't belong to him, the victims had no idea what was in their future. Mr. Conour, you have ruined the lives of many people, including my sons! The Lord will take care of you when he is ready, until then please continue to remember your bad choices and suffer through each day knowing you stole the dreams of so many people!

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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