Suspended Warsaw attorney disbarred following theft, fraud conviction

A northern Indiana lawyer who was indefinitely suspended in March after he pleaded guilty to multiple felony theft charges was disbarred Wednesday by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Justices unanimously leveled the most severe attorney discipline sanction against Scott J. Lennox, ordering him disbarred immediately for 15 rule violations related to “neglecting client matters, mismanaging his attorney trust accounts, converting client funds, and failing to cooperate with the disciplinary process.”

In the per curium opinion In The Matter of Scott Joseph Lennox, 19S-DI-628, justices accepted the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission’s allegations against Lennox, who did not appear or respond to the proceedings against him.

Lennox, formerly a partner with Lennox, Sobek & Buehler LLC in Warsaw, was suspended last November for noncooperation with the commission’s investigation of four grievances against him. Relatedly, Lennox had been criminally charged in Kosciusko Circuit Court with multiple felonies alleging theft of client funds, among other counts.

Lennox pleaded guilty in March to two counts of Level 5 felony fraud on a financial institution and six counts of Level 6 felony theft arising from a case investigated by Warsaw police after money entrusted to the firm went missing. Under terms of his plea agreement, Lennox agreed to make restitution of more than $51,000 to his former law firm, clients and a bank.

The court said in its order Wednesday that Lennox “failed to maintain appropriate records for two trust accounts and made several unauthorized withdrawals of client funds, converting those funds for his personal use.” He also “made several unauthorized withdrawals and converted client funds from a third trust account,” resulting in criminal charges.

“Respondent also wholly neglected three client matters, failed to adequately communicate with those clients, and converted funds belonging to those clients,” the court’s opinion said.

Lennox was sentenced to seven years suspended to probation. He agreed to make restitution to clients through a surrogate attorney in the amount of $34,481. He also agreed to restitution to his former firm partners in the amount of $14,620, and $1,986 to Lake City Bank.

Under terms of his plea agreement approved earlier this month by a special judge in Kosciusko Circuit Court, Lennox will be released from probation at the time full restitution is made, and no further charges will be filed against him in this case. Lennox also may file for an expungement after full restitution is made. According to online court records through March 18, Lennox had made restitution at least to his former firm and the bank.

The court found Lennox violated these Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct:

  • 1.3: Failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness;
  • 1.4(a)(3): Failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter;
  • 1.4(a)(4): Failing to comply promptly with a client’s reasonable requests for information;
  • 1.15(a): Failing to safeguard property of clients and third parties and failing to maintain and preserve complete records of client trust account funds;
  • 1.15(c): Failing to deposit into a client trust account legal fees paid in advance;
  • 1.16(d): Failing to protect a client’s interests upon termination of representation;
  • 8.1(b): Knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority;
  • 8.4(a): Knowingly violating the Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • 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.

Lennox additionally violated these Indiana Admission and Discipline Rules:

  • 23(29)(a)(2)–(4) (2016): Failing to create, maintain and preserve proper records for trust account activities;
  • 23(29)(a)(5) (2016): Making withdrawals from a trust account without written withdrawal authorization stating the amount and purpose of the withdrawal and the payee;
  • 23(29)(a) (2017): Failing to preserve complete records for an attorney trust account;
  • 23(29)(b) (2017): Inability to produce financial records by electronic, photographic, computer or other media capable of being reduced to printed format, and;
  • 23(29)(c)(5) (2017): Making cash disbursements from a trust account.

Costs of the disciplinary proceeding are assessed against Lennox.

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