Legal Ethics

Attorney Suspended for 6 Months Due to Paralegal's Alleged Embezzlement of $80K

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A New Hampshire attorney has had his license suspended for six months because his paralegal allegedly embezzled $80,000 from clients.

Joseph Ritzo breached his duty to safeguard client settlement funds and to ensure that his paralegal was performing her job in compliance with the law, the state Professional Conduct Committee found. It also said that he didn’t act promptly enough to fire her or limit her work duties after learning that she had stolen from him, reports Portsmouth Herald.

The paralegal, 38-year-old Desiree McLaughlin, has been criminally charged with embezzlement and theft and is scheduled to go to trial in May in state court in Rockingham County.

“Unfortunately for Joe, under the rules as attorneys, he has a responsibility for what his employees do,” his lawyer, Jeffrey Karlin, tells the newspaper, saying that this is the only blemish on his client’s 25-year legal career. “It’s been very difficult for Joe and he’s doing the best he can. I would emphasize that no one is accusing Joe of doing anything dishonest. He unfortunately had someone working for him who was dishonest and he’s paying the price.”

An earlier Boston Globe article provides additional details.

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