Legal Ethics

Lawyer mourns loss of 'little sister' assistant he fired, vows to repay clients for missing funds

Until recently, attorney Michael Krebes thought of a longtime assistant as family.

Now the Indiana lawyer, a former prosecutor and judge, is struggling to repay more than 40 clients he says were cheated out of money or representation between 2011 and 2013 because of problems he didn’t know about until December. That’s when he discovered tens of thousands of dollars were missing from at least one firm account, the Kokomo Perspective reports.

“Other than the death of my mother and father, this is the worst thing to ever happen to me. I had blind trust in her. She was like the little sister I never I had. I knew her kids, her husband, her family,” Krebes said of the employee he fired late last year, shortly before he reported the matter to police.

Although she is not named in this post because she has not been charged, Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann told the Perspective he expects the Kokomo Police Department to file a request for charges. At that point, McCann plans to assign a special prosecutor to pursue the case, due to Krebes’ connection to his office as a former prosecutor.

Krebes, who has vowed to make his clients whole, is far from the only lawyer who says he put too much trust in a longtime employee. An post last year documents half a dozen cases that had been in the news over a six-month period. All apparently involved considerably more money than what is at issue concerning Krebes’ law office.

In one of those cases, an attorney told a Canadian legal ethics hearing panel that his lawyer-client’s mistake should serve as a lesson for all practitioners. “He didn’t look at his bank statements. He didn’t look at his canceled checks at any time.”

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