Attorney accused of tax evasion suspended; 2 justices would disbar

A Schererville attorney previously arraigned in federal court on charges of tax evasion and failure to pay federal income taxes has been suspended from the practice of law for three years without automatic reinstatement, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered Tuesday. Some of the justices, however, said they would disbar the attorney.

Lake County attorney Raymond Gupta was found to have committed attorney misconduct for, among other things, “mismanaging his attorney trust accounts, charging and collecting unreasonable amounts for fees and expenses, neglecting numerous client matters, making false statements to the Commission, and evading the payment of income taxes,” according to a per curiam Supreme Court order.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and Gupta both submitted for approval a conditional agreement for discipline stipulating agreed facts, costs, and proposed discipline, the order says. This follows a June 2019 emergency interim suspension of Gupta, who has a laundry list of violations against him. At the time of the emergency order, the high court found Gupta posed “a substantial threat of harm to the public, clients, potential clients, or the administration of justice.

In its Tuesday order, Supreme Court justices cited some of Gupta’s offenses in what it called a brief summary, including his act of willfully failing to file federal income tax returns from 2010 to present, “despite having earned substantial income during that time through his representation of clients in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.” Gupta was indicted in federal court on tax evasion charges with prosecution still pending at the time the order was written. A jury trial for those charges is scheduled for May 4, according to federal court filings.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steven David would reject the conditional agreement, believing Gupta should be disbarred.

Additionally, Gupta mismanaged two Indiana trust accounts over nearly a decade, failed to keep adequate records, commingled personal and client funds, used trust account funds to pay personal or business expenses, and failed to timely disburse settlement funds owed to clients or third parties, the order alleges.

Justices further assert that the attorney “routinely billed clients unreasonable amounts for travel and other expenses.” He also is alleged to have referred clients to several consultants with whom Gupta had professional relationships, and he allowed those consultants to submit requests for payment without providing invoices for work performed.

“Respondent paid these amounts without question and without advance consultation with his clients. In one particularly galling instance, Respondent charged his client $13,000 for payments to a consulting medical clinic. Not only had the client not approved this payment, but in fact Respondent had paid only $4,000 to the clinic on the client’s behalf,” the order says.

Further, the order asserts that Gupta was frequently absent from his law office, delegated broad accounting authority to a paralegal with minimal or no accounting training or knowledge, neglected numerous client matters that resulted in “substantial prejudice to his clients,” among other things.

“In recent years, Respondent has stated to the Commission and various courts that physical and mental health issues were compromising his ability to manage his firm’s caseload. Nonetheless, during this time Respondent failed to withdraw from existing client representations and continued to accept new clients,” the justices wrote.

“Respondent’s pattern of misconduct was wide-ranging, severe, and long-lasting. Many of Respondent’s actions were intended to unjustly enrich himself and affiliated consultants at the expense of his clients and the public fisc,” the order says, with a majority of the high court noting that it has “approved in some similar cases agreements for lengthy suspensions without automatic reinstatement rather than disbarment.”

“Where the severity and scope of the attorney’s misconduct are as extreme as Respondent’s pattern of misconduct was here, an attorney who seeks reinstatement will face a particularly steep burden to gain reentry. It will be the rare case in which such a heightened burden will be met, and there is little in the record before us that would suggest Respondent will be capable of doing so,” the high court concluded.

The parties agreed that Gupta violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.3, 1.4(a)(2), 1.4(a)(3), 1.4(a)(4), 1.4(b), 1.5(a), 1.5(c), 1.7(a)(2), 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 1.15(d), 1.16(a)(2), 1.16(a)(3), 5.3(b), 7.3(d), 8.1(a), 8.4(b), 8.4(c) and 8.4(d).

Gupta was also found to have violated the following Indiana Admission and Discipline Rules: 23(29)(a)(2) (2010-2016), 23(29)(a)(3) (2010-2016), 23(29)(a)(4) (2010-2016), 23(29)(a)(5) (2010-2016), 23(29)(a)(7) (2010-2016), 23(29)(a)(1) (2017-2018), 23(29)(a)(2) (2017-2018),  23(29)(a)(6) (2017-2018), 23(29)(a)(7) (2017-2018), 23(29)(b) (2017-2018), 23(29)(c)(2) (2017-2018), 23(29)(c)(3)(i) (2017-2018), 23(29)(c)(3)(ii) (2017-2018), 23(29)(c)(5) (2017-2018), 23(29)(c)(6) (2017-2018) and 23(29)(c)(7) (2017-2018).

The costs of the proceeding are assessed against Gupta, who is ordered to pay $10,540.26 to the Commission for investigative expenses and $250 in court costs.

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