Suspension upheld for lawyer accused of concealing inventories of shipwreck gold

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A lawyer accused of failing to disclose his clients' inventories of shipwreck gold will be suspended for four years in Virginia as a result of a decision by that state’s supreme court.

The Virginia Supreme Court upheld Richard Thomas Robol’s suspension in a Jan. 6 opinion, report Law360 and Reuters.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati had upheld a sanction of nearly $225,000 against Robol in June 2016 for interfering with enforcement of a consent order to turn over the inventories, Courthouse News Service reported at the time. The gold was taken from the shipwrecked S.S. Central America, which sunk in 1857, according to the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion upholding Robol’s suspension.

Treasure hunter Thomas Thompson found the ship in 1988, leading to claims on the money by insurers who made payouts 130 years before, monks who said they had the right to the treasure, and investors in the recovery operation, according to Courthouse News Service.

Robol and his clients—two companies controlled by Thompson—claimed in investor litigation that they had already turned over the only inventory in their possession, which accounted for gold that had been sold in 2000.

But a receiver liquidating the two companies found other inventories in 36 file cabinets in a portion of Robol’s duplex that was leased to the companies, the 6th Circuit had said. Even if Robol was unaware that the inventories were located there, he could not have believed his clients’ representations that they did not exist, the 6th Circuit had concluded.

During a hearing on his suspension, Robol submitted a declaration from Thompson, who was in federal prison on civil contempt charges for failing to disclose the location of 500 missing gold coins. Thompson’s declaration said Robol would not have been aware of other inventories.

In Ohio, the state supreme court accepted Robol’s application for retirement or resignation with disciplinary action pending. Robol said the resignation is without prejudice.

Robol reacted to the Virginia decision in an interview with the ABA Journal.

“Although I’m disappointed, I respect the stated aspirations of our system of justice,” he says. “I expect that during the next three years or so, the entire facts will become available to the American public, and I hope that the end result will be to help galvanize improvements to our system of justice.”

Robol told the ABA Journal that the two companies that he represented had been poised to proceed with additional exploration of the S.S. Central America and “other targets” when they were placed in receivership.

Now, the companies have been destroyed as functioning entities, undermining “the goal of taking advantage of the genius of Thompson as a robotics and underwater engineer,” he said.

Robol also told the ABA Journal that he is currently trying to enjoy retirement.

“I’m writing a couple books and enjoying senior status, so to speak,” he says.

Updated Jan. 12 at 9:45 a.m. with Robol’s comments.

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