A disbarred attorney pleaded guilty and was immediately sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation Friday for taking nearly $150,000 from three people and using it to pay personal debts.Fred Raymond Hunter Jr., 50, of Riverside, who was disbarred Oct. 16, 2014, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of embezzlement by a fiduciary of trust, with sentencing enhancement allegations for theft exceeding $100,000 and aggravated white collar crime exceeding $100,000.
Hunter has repaid most of the money he took from the victims, but a determination still needs to be made about how much more restitution he must pay, according to Deputy District Attorney Gautam Sood.
Hunter accepted the plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald. Hunter was ordered to begin serving his jail term July 7, Sood said.
Between June and November 2013, Hunter used about $4,600 in funds from legal settlements that were owed to a client to pay a debt to another client, Sood said.
During the same period, he embezzled about $52,200 from another client’s settlement for the same reasons, Sood said.
Between April and July of 2014, he appropriated about $88,800 from a third victim’s settlement in a fraudulent way, according to the prosecutor.
Hunter’s disbarment stemmed from a dispute he had with a client, Mario Pineda, according to the state Bar of California. The criminal complaint did not include claims from that case. Pineda hired Hunter to pursue a personal injury and property damage claim stemming from a vehicle accident on Nov. 20, 2009, according to the state Bar.
Hunter took two checks from the client’s insurance company amounting to $3,609 for medical bills and forged Pineda’s signature on them, then deposited them into a trust account for the client in April of 2010. Hunter did not use the money to pay the medical bills, the Bar reported.
Hunter received a $15,000 settlement from an insurance company in March 2011, but did not give it to his client, instead keeping the money “for his own use and purposes,” according to the Bar.
Hunter also kept improperly representing the client in the litigation even after he was fired and another firm was hired to replace him, according to the state Bar. That made it more difficult for the client to resolve the litigation later on.
Hunter’s attorney, Donald Rance Welch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— City News Service
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