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White Collar Crime

Suspended Texas PI Lawyer Gets 35 Years in Client Theft Case

Posted Aug 29, 2008 4:18 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After stealing more than $1.6 million from at least 46 clients over a six-year period, then-personal injury attorney Steven Bearman reportedly kept working as a Houston lawyer while awaiting trial after his 2006 arrest.

During that period, Bearman, now 44, stole from the law firm that had hired him, too, recounts the Houston Chronicle. The suspended attorney was sentenced yesterday to a 35-year prison term, after pleading guilty to misapplication of fiduciary duty involving more than $200,000. He could have gotten a life term for the crime.

The Chronicle doesn't name the law firm. However, an earlier Texas Lawyer article says Bearman stole from the Roth Firm in Houston, while working there in 2007 as a paralegal, after his law license was suspended on an interim basis, according to court records. The magazine article says attorney Tassi Roth agreed to take over Bearman's practice, and paid him $7,000 a month to help Roth get up to speed on the cases.

"I was shocked to learn that Steve had apparently gotten access to my operating account and paid out over $108,000 in restitution by cashier's check from my operating account," apparently to Bearman's own former clients whose complaints had led to the charges against him, says Roth in an affidavit. "It also appeared that he was using my operating funds to make child support payments and to pay his own attorney."

According to court records, Bearman settled clients' cases without telling them, dodged their phone calls and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. He says he was an alcoholic who used cocaine, too, the newspaper reports.

His defense lawyer had argued that he should get probation, so that he could work to repay his victims.

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