Bermuda: Lawyer Found Guilty Of Stealing Funds Belonging To His Clients

(ROYAL GAZETTE) – A lawyer accused of stealing almost $500,000 of his clients funds has been found guilty of theft in the Supreme Court.

Tyrone Quinn, 37, was found guilty of three counts of theft by a unanimous verdict after about 3½ hours of deliberation.

While Quinn asked to be released on bail pending sentence to allow him to get his affairs in order, Alan Richards, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, said the offences were serious and deserved a significant sentence.

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe remanded Quinn into custody, stating that the unanimous and relatively quick decision showed a “wholesale rejection” of his defence of duress.

The judge ordered a social inquiry report on Quinn and for the matter to return to the court to be mentioned next month.

Quinn was accused of three counts of theft totalling $483,000 after three of his clients said he had failed to turn over compensation payments he had received on their behalf.

The offences took place between May 2020 and February 2021.

The court heard over the course of the trial that Quinn had represented Jacqueline Trott in 2020 when she sought compensation for an injury she suffered working as a security guard.

Ms Trott said that he advised her to accept an award of $100,000 and, near the end of February 2021, he informed her that the money had been transferred.

He then gave her an envelope with $13,000 in it and said that the rest of the money was transferred to her account, but no such transfer was ever made.

Larry Brangman told the court he had retained Quinn in March 2019 after an accident had caused him cuts and a dislocated hip.

He settled for $300,000 in April 2020 but became suspicious after he did not receive the money.

Mr Brangman said he was told by Colonial Insurance in March 2021 that the money had been sent out almost a year earlier and that he had still not received the funds.

Jenna Riley, the third complainant, said she had settled a case for $89,000 and was told by Quinn she would received the funds in a matter of weeks.

She later contacted Freisenbruch-Meyer Group, which told her that the funds had already been sent to Quinn and, after months of trying to get the money, she went to the police.

Quinn acknowledged in court that he had received the funds for the clients and had no intention of permanently depriving them of the money.

He told the court that he had been approached by two men in 2019 over a “problem” related to an illegal business transaction and that they had demanded compensation.

Quinn said he did not know the men or their “problem”, but he complied with their demands after they threatened him and his family, paying them thousands of dollars and making a range of payments on their behalf.

The defendant acknowledged that he had also used the funds to make payments unrelated to the threats or the clients, but maintained he had always intended to give his clients what they were owed.

Quinn also brought forward a defence witness, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who told the court how she was harassed and threatened by a group of men who demanded access to the defendant.

Delivering his closing speech last week, he urged the jury to consider what they would do if the lives of their families had been threatened.

Mr Richards, however, said Quinn had acted dishonestly and had treated his clients funds as if they were his own.

He noted that neither Quinn nor his witness were willing to identify the alleged culprits to police or the courts, while highlighting that large portions of the money were used for expenses completely unrelated to the alleged threats.

The 12-woman jury delivered a unanimous guilty verdict shortly before 2pm and were thanked for their work by Mr Justice Wolffe.

Quinn is the second lawyer to be found guilty of stealing from a client this year.

In January, Nancy Vieira was convicted of dishonestly obtaining $80,000 from a client and was sentenced to five years behind bars.