White-Collar Crime

Ex-attorney put on probation in $500K client theft now gets 10 years for drinking, practicing law

A disbarred Texas lawyer was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for violating the terms of his probation in a client-theft case.

David Bonilla, 59, got a suspended prison sentence and was put on probation for 10 years in 2011, when he pleaded guilty to stealing some $500,000 from clients while he was still in practice, the Corpus Christi Caller Times reports. The newspaper said Bonilla made restitution in the same amount to 37 clients at the same time he took the plea deal in the Nueces County case.

After his disbarment, Bonilla was employed at his dad’s law firm as a legal assistant. At a Wednesday hearing, however, Bonilla admitted he had illegally practiced law while working there. He also admitted drinking alcohol, which he was prohibited from doing.

His father, William Bonilla, voluntarily gave up his own law license last year to preclude attorney discipline related to his son’s practice at his firm, the newspaper says.

In courtroom filled with David Bonilla’s family and friends, including a son who is also an attorney, 319th District Judge David Stith said he, too, has known the family a long time but had to impose a fair sentence.

KRIS says a local bar association received complaints and contacted Corpus Christi police, leading to the probation violation case against Bonilla.

Bonilla didn’t offer any statement at the sentencing, and he and his lawyer declined to comment afterward.

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