An Indianapolis attorney accused of mismanaging trust funds for both himself and other attorneys and clients has been suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for 180 days.
According to the disciplinary order handed down Wednesday, Tarek E. Mercho of Indianapolis law firm Mercho Caughey “misappropriate funds from his attorney trust account over a period of several years, making dozens of disbursements of client funds for purely personal purposes.” On at least two occasions, Mercho disbursed funds that were held in trust for another attorney and that attorney’s client.
After the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission began an investigation into Mercho’s conduct, the attorney made false statements to the commission and submitted a client ledger with false entries to extricate himself from the disciplinary process, the order says. Both the commission and the hearing officer found that Mercho had violated Professional Conduct Rules 1.15(a) and 8.1(a) and Admission and Discipline Rules 23(29)(a)(4)(2016) and 23(29)(1)(5)(2016) in connection with the funds mismanagement and his dishonesty during the investigation.
The commission also alleged that Mercho violated Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b) and 8.4(c) on the basis that his financial mismanagement was criminal in nature. However, both the hearing officer and the court, with Justice Robert Rucker acting as chief justice, found that the commission did not sustain its burden of proof on those charges.
The hearing officer recommended a 90-day suspension followed by a one-year probationary period, while the commission recommended a one-year suspension without automatic reinstatement. The court ultimately chose to impose a 180-day suspension effective May 10, with 90 days actively served and the remaining time stayed subject to completion of at least one year of probation, including trust account monitoring by a certified public accounting.
Mercho’s probation will remain in effect until it is terminated pursuant to a petition filed under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(16), the court wrote in its order. Additionally, Mercho may not undertake any new legal matters between now and May 10, and the costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.