A 70-year-old St Augustine attorney, Charles Edward Pellicer, whose law office is located at 28 Cordova Street in Saint Augustine, is on probation for two-years and will be publicly reprimanded by The Florida Bar, according to a report received by Historic City News today.
Ted Pellicer attended the South Texas College of Law and was admitted to practice in Florida in 1976. He is well known and respected in the local Minorcan community and is the son of the late Xavier Lopez (X.L.) Pellicer Sr. His local law practice focuses on Elder Law, Family Law, Real Property Probate and Trust Law.
On August 1, 2008, Pellicer obtained a $20,000 loan from Mary Ellen Fabal, an elderly blind woman for whom Pellicer had previously provided legal representation. Pellicer handled several legal matters for her after obtaining the loan. Pellicer told Fabal he would make monthly payments of $250.00 to repay the loan. Pellicer read to her the pre-prepared and signed promissory note. Despite their prior attorney-client relationship, Pellicer did not advise Fabal to obtain independent legal advice regarding the loan.
Pellicer drove Fabal to her bank to obtain a $20,000.00 check made payable to him. At the bank, Pellicer, Fabal and Fabal’s personal banker, had discussions regarding the loan. At one point, Pellicer left Fabal and her personal banker alone to discuss the loan.
Pellicer failed to make the required loan payments for December 2009, January 2010, February 2010, March 2010, April 2010, and May 2010.
On May 25, 2010, Fabal sent Pellicer a certified letter seeking payment in full by no later than June 4, 2010. The following day, Pellicer and his wife sold a piece of real estate and deposited the proceeds into his law office trust account. On June 4, 2010, Pellicer issued a check to Fabal from his trust account in the amount of $18,169.95 as “Payment in Full on Loan”.
The bar initiated an audit of Pellicer’s trust account for the period December 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010 and found that Pellicer’s trust account was not in substantial compliance with the Rules Regulating Trust Accounts.
Pellicer commingled his funds with client funds when he deposited the proceeds from the sale of his real property into his trust account and thereafter paid out closing costs to third parties and left the remainder of the sales proceeds in the account. For the audit period, Pellicer failed to perform the minimum trust accounting procedures or maintain the minimum trust accounting records.
The audit also found that entries in the trust account journal did not contain identification of the client or matter for which funds were received, disbursed or transferred. Certain information required by Bar rules was found to be incomplete or missing from the trust ledger cards. The payee is missing from some ledger entries and no reason was given for deposits in other ledger entries except “Deposit” or “Receipt#.”
For all months in the audit period, the bank reconciliations did not agree with the journal balances obtained from the journal — differing from between $98,115.44 to $302,431.73. Bank reconciliations are required to agree with the journal balance. Pellicer was required by the trust rules to do monthly comparisons between the total of the reconciled balance of the trust account and the trust ledger cards. Pellicer failed to provide any monthly comparisons for the audit period.
Shortages showed in Pellicer’s trust account ranging from $2,424.04 to $28,501.04 for several months during the audit period. Pellicer’s trust account was out of balance. Funds placed in trust for a specific client are to be used only for that client.
Pellicer’s records indicate that he loaned himself money from the trust account; first on June 9, 2010 in the amount of $3,000, and again on June 23, 2010 in the amount of $1,000. Pellicer wrote checks from his trust account to his office account identified as “Loan from CEP to Office”. Since the proceeds of his real estate sale were used, the funds were already his and not a loan.
The Supreme Court of Florida accepted Pellicer’s guilty plea and the conditions set forth by The Florida Bar in a judgment awarded on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
During the two-year period of probation, the following conditions will be imposed:
• Within 1 year of the final order, Pellicer must attend a trust accounting workshop
• Within 60 days of the final order, Pellicer must retain a certified public accountant to review his trust account records on a monthly basis during the term of probation.
• CPA must furnish quarterly statements to The Florida Bar specifying that Pellicer is in compliance with the Rules Regulating Trust Accounts including monthly trust account reconciliations.
• Pellicer must pay a quarterly monitoring fee of $100.00 to The Florida Bar.
• Pellicer must pay $6,033.07 in recovered costs to The Florida Bar.