Cuyahoga County

Lawyer indicted for stealing from clients

8/10/2016

Cleveland – A former attorney has been indicted by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury for stealing more than $600,000 from his clients, County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced today.

Paul Kaufman, 67, of Shaker Heights, has been charged with one count of Theft, 20 counts of Identity Fraud and 20 counts of Forgery. The offenses took place between 2009 and 2014.

The indictment names 15 victims, but prosecutors and investigators believe there may be more. The investigation of Kaufman continues and additional charges may be added.

Investigators say Kaufman’s schemes worked like this: The attorney would win judgments or settlements for his clients, then forge their names on checks and pocket the funds. Sometimes, he eventually paid his clients some or all of their money — though usually only after repeated complaints — and sometimes he never gave them anything.

Some of his clients, including victims cited in today’s indictment, have been made whole or at least partially compensated through the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, a program created by the Ohio Supreme Court to reimburse victims of attorney theft, embezzlement or misappropriation. Money in the fund comes from registration fees paid by every Ohio attorney.

“Attorneys like Paul Kaufman are why so many people look down on the legal profession,” said Assistant County Prosecutor James A. Gutierrez. “He chose to ignore his responsibilities as a lawyer and to cheat his clients, and now he is going to have answer for those crimes.”

The two-year investigation into Kaufman’s practice was by led detectives from the Berea Police Department.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Kaufman resigned from the practice of law in 2015 with discipline pending, including charges that he received more than $215,000 from Merck & Company in 2009 as part of a class action settlement and had not shared those proceeds with his clients.

Read the indictment.

Contact: Joseph Frolik, Director of Communications and Public Policy. Phone: 216.443.7488 or Email: jfrolik@prosecutor.cuyahogacounty.us