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White-Collar Crime

Disbarred Mo. Lawyer Is Charged With Stealing $650K From Fund for Murdered Kids, 2 Other Clients

Posted Apr 5, 2012 10:24 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A former Missouri lawyer disbarred in 2009 was federally indicted Wednesday for allegedly stealing $650,000 from three clients.

Among the alleged victims of Harley Kent Desselle, 61, are a memorial fund for two murdered children, a bankruptcy client and a woman who says she is the widow of a longtime friend of his, reports the Kansas City Star.

He faces multiple fraud counts and a charge of making a false oath in a bankruptcy case.

The widow, Nancy Clifton, said she gave Desselle the $750,000 proceeds from her husband's life insurance in 1996 to invest, which he put into his own business, promising her a high return, the article recounts. Meanwhile, he allegedly provided her with phony documents purporting to show she was receiving interest payments before eventually confessing in 2008 that he had lost all her money, according to the indictment.

Tina Porter, the mother of the two murdered children, said she learned a hard lesson from her experience with Desselle:

“Never meet with an attorney by yourself when you’re under stress,” she recommended. “Always have someone with you, and make sure it’s someone with a clear head so they can be objective. I thought Kent had my best interests at heart, and look what happened.”

Desselle declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper.

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