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Imprisoned Anderson attorney disbarred for theft from estates

May 23, 2018

An Anderson attorney currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for misappropriating hundreds of thousands in estate funds has been disbarred.

The Indiana Supreme Court revoked Stephen Schuyler’s law license nearly one year after he pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts, including theft, in June 2017 in the Madison Circuit Court. Schuyler, 65, was sentenced to eight years in prison the same month for misappropriating funds from six supervised estates opened for probate in Madison County. The court’s disciplinary order, In the Matter of Stephen W. Schuyler, 18S-DI-184, says Schuyler’s theft from the six estates totaled at least $550,000, while the Associated Press reported misappropriation of more than $700,000.

Among Schuyler’s victims was East Lynn Christian Church, an Anderson church that was bequeathed more than $100,000 after parishioner Sarah Wilding died in April 2012. Schuyler was Wilding’s attorney, and his misconduct in handling her estate brought nearly $500,000 in misappropriations to light.

Wilding’s case prompted an Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission investigation, but Schuyler failed to comply with orders for accounting and to distribute assets. He also failed to appear at disciplinary hearings, prompting a bench warrant for his arrest.

The court imposed an interim suspension against Schuyler in October 2017 following his plea and sentencing. The Tuesday order disbarring Schuyler found he had violated these four Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct:

• 3.4(c), knowingly disobeying a court order;

• 8.1(b), knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority;

• 8.4(b), committing criminal acts that reflect adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, and;

• 8.4(c), engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

In all, the Indiana Roll of Attorneys shows eight disciplinary actions have been opened against Schuyler, with two still pending.

“We find it particularly troubling that Respondent’s prior discipline also involved the theft of funds from a probate estate,” the court wrote in a footnote to the per curiam opinion, referencing a disciplinary case in which Schuyler allowed a paralegal to write unauthorized checks on an estate’s account. “Respondent’s lackadaisical supervision and remediation of his paralegal’s conduct take on a new light when viewed through the lens of his current misconduct.”

The only mitigating factors found in Schuyler’s favor were his acceptance of responsibility in the criminal and disciplinary actions against him and his eight-year criminal penalty.

“We have consistently disbarred attorneys who have committed similar misconduct,” the court wrote. “We unhesitatingly do so here as well.”

According to the Indiana Department of Correction, Schuyler is serving his sentence in the Pendleton Correctional Facility, and his projected release date is in June 2021.

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