ILNews

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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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