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Conour's colleagues questioned behavior

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William Conour, until recently, was one of Indiana’s most respected and powerful personal injury attorneys, his name prominent enough to grace a law school atrium. Now he faces a federal charge that could send him to prison for much of the rest of his life.

Conour, 65, stole $4.5 million from more than 25 clients whose settlement money was entrusted to him, according to information filed Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana. The wire fraud charge against Conour carries a possible prison term of 20 years and fines.

“We will be committed to seeking full restitution for the victims,” said Richard Cox, a special U.S. attorney from the Central District of Illinois who is prosecuting the case against Conour in Indianapolis. But Cox acknowledges victims might not be made whole.
 

conour-bill-mug Conour

“We hope there are assets out there,” Cox said. “What we’re essentially alleging is that money does not exist.”

People familiar with the case say they believe a guilty plea is imminent. Conour’s attorney, Richard Kammen, did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment. Telephone lines at the Conour Law Firm were temporarily disconnected, according to a recorded message.

Since Conour came to the attention of federal authorities, the scope of his alleged crimes has widened. He initially was accused of misappropriating or converting for his own use $2.5 million from client trust funds. Conour resigned from the bar this year after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a verified complaint against him because of the federal charge.

The charge against Conour is partially the result of suspicions brought to light by former colleagues who saw firsthand Conour’s behaviors and actions.

“The problem we have here is it takes a person who knows the system to abuse the system,” said attorney Timothy Devereux of Ladendorf & Ladendorf in Indianapolis, who compared Conour to disgraced financial titan Bernie Madoff.

“I think because of his reputation in the community, people were hesitant to acknowledge or they didn’t want to believe what he was doing,” Devereux said.

Devereux worked with Conour for four years until last December. “After I left, I was contacted by law enforcement to ask if I could help them,” Devereux said.

When Devereux cut his professional ties with Conour, he said numerous clients followed, but Conour wouldn’t release case files. In some cases, Devereux said Hamilton County sheriff’s officers had to be called to execute court orders requiring Conour to hand them over.

“At times he could be very generous and gregarious, but he was a perfectionist and very controlling,” Devereux said. “He could be great, and at the same time turn around and show great anger within seconds. In hindsight, I look back and it’s almost like he did have a split personality. … There were days when the staff would look at each other and say, ‘What set him off?’”

One of the clients Devereux represented was Gracelynn Harrison, who was injured in a car crash when she was about 18 months old. When questions arose about her $62,000 settlement trust, Devereux won a court order requiring Conour to appear in Decatur County, and Conour was later arrested and charged with failure to appear.

“I don’t believe there’s any sufficient funds,” Devereux said. “That’s my fear … I hope to God I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.”

John Daly, a partner at Golitko & Daly P.C., said he alerted the disciplinary commission in July 2008 that Conour wasn’t paying a client in a nursing home from a six-figure special-needs trust that was supposed to be set up to compensate for injuries she sustained falling down an elevator shaft.

“To me, the ‘A’ story is the tremendous delay between the time I made the initial complaint to … this year,” said Daly, who stopped working with Conour in February 2008.

“Bill did a lot of mayhem in the meantime,” Daly said.

Disciplinary Commission Executive Director G. Michael Witte said the commission’s confidentiality rules restrict him from confirming or denying complaints against Conour prior to the filing of the verified complaint against him in May.

But Witte said building a case against Conour took time, as evidenced by the federal court information alleging that Conour’s actions date to 1999. It took years for the FBI to make the case, he said, and the commission has far fewer resources.

“This case is one that’s frustrating to a lot of lawyers because Mr. Conour was a go-to lawyer for a lot of lawyers around the state,” Witte said. “Because he was this go-to person for lots of referrals, he engaged in more deceit and cover-ups to hide things from those other attorneys.

“He had to avoid the suspicion of all the lawyers who sent him work,” Witte said.

“The most difficult part about this is that the rules of confidentiality sometimes hamstring us from being able to use outside resources and exchange information,” he said. “I can’t just pick up the phone and call the FBI and say, ‘We’ve got a case against a lawyer.’

“The only thing we can do is utilize our own investigation resources to pursue our own independent investigation,” Witte said. That includes one full-time investigator and 12 staff attorneys who handle about 1,200 complaints per year.

Devereux said Conour betrayed a profession that typically is protective of clients and fights to see their needs are attended to. “To see someone do this to clients is just gut-wrenching,” he said.
 

15col-ConourAtrium.jpg The William and Jennifer Conour Atrium at the I.U. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis is named after the Conours, who dedicated a gift to the school of $450,000. An IUPUI spokeswoman said it was premature to discuss what will happen with the name before the federal wire fraud charge against William Conour is resolved. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“The tragedy is when people in a position of trust stop thinking that the money entrusted with them doesn’t belong to somebody else,” Daly said. “They’re entrusted with millions of dollars, and they rationalize it.

“There’re a lot of sad parts to this,” Daly said. “The saddest part is these are widows and orphans and people who are paralyzed. These aren’t your fender-bender cases.”

Meanwhile, the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law faces the difficult prospect of deciding what to do about the William and Jennifer Conour Atrium that is the focal point of the Indianapolis school, and what to do about the $450,000 Conour paid to have his name attached to it.

“We are following this very closely and will take action at the appropriate time,” said Margie Smith-Simmons, director of news and media at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “Until the case is resolved, we’re not in a position to discuss details.”•

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  • 1999???
    If my newborn grandson's father had the occasion to know about the 1999 complaint, maybe he would still have his 1.7 million dollar today! Not only has he lost every dime he was awarded for his father's death, he also has to take out student loans for his education thereby actually COSTING him money in the long run. Conour is a miserable jackass and so is his wife if she doesn't return her portion of her recent divorce settlement because it didn't belong to either of them.
  • Attorney
    If Disciplinary Commission Executive Director, G. Michael Witte, is correct that the confidentiality rules prohibit the Disciplinary Commission from referring criminal activity to the FBI, Indiana State Police, or other criminal authorities then the Indiana Supreme Court needs to step in and change its rules. Mr. Witte indicates that the Disciplinary Commission does not have the resources or maybe even the expertise to uncover sophisticated financial crimes. If that is the case the Supreme Court needs to permit referrals of criminal activity, so that the public is protected from lawyers who abuse their fiduciary activity. I recently spoke to a CPA-Attorney, who in 1999 discovered and reported to the Indiana Disciplinary Commission, about the criminal conduct of Mr. Conour. This gentleman told me, he gave the Commission significant details about how Conour defrauded his clients and yet, Indiana Disciplinary Commission never issued any disciplinary charges and was unable to tell the CPA-Attorney what the Commission's investigation discovered.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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