September 21, 2022 – 6:00 pm
A Kelowna lawyer who misused his trust account for personal gain, accepted $60,000 in gifts from clients and acted in a conflict of interest case, has been fined $20,000 by the body of regulation.
Kelowna attorney Gregg Anthony Alfonso will also have to pay $3,500 in fees to the Law Society of BC to cover the costs of his investigation.
According to a Sept. 15 ruling from the Law Society of BC, Alfonso treated the trust account as his own personal deposit account.
“This conduct is completely contrary to the requirement that trust accounts should only be used for transactions related to the provision of legal services,” the Law Society said.
The Law Society said Alfonso is a seasoned lawyer who has practiced for more than 30 years and should have been well aware of his professional obligations.
According to the ruling, the Law Society found that Alfonso committed eight acts of professional misconduct dating back to 2016.
In September 2016, Alfonso accepted a $30,000 donation from the proceeds of a sale from a client, without giving him legal advice.
In British Columbia, lawyers are not allowed to accept gifts that are more than “nominal” unless the client has received legal advice.
“The (Law Society) takes it for granted that a donation of $30,000 cannot be characterized as ‘nominal,'” the decision reads.
On another occasion, Alfonso accepted another $30,000 gift from another client.
The Law Society also found that in 2019, Alfonso acted in a conflict of interest when he prepared a promissory note regarding a $10,000 loan between two clients.
“There is no suggestion that (Alfonso), at any time, considered his obligation to avoid conflict,” the Bar said.
In another case, the lawyer failed to properly verify the identity of two clients during a real estate transaction.
The Law Society said that while it accepted there was no money laundering issue or misappropriation allegations in this incident, Alfonso neglected to follow strict rules surrounding real estate transactions.
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The Law Society said Alfonso’s conduct revealed a “pattern of lack of attention and care”, as well as an “inadequate conscience” and commitment to his professional obligations.
The Law Society said it was troubling that the pattern of behavior took place following an earlier driving test in 2016.
“Despite (Alfonso’s) assurances that greater attention would be paid to professional responsibilities in the future,” the decision read.
“While (Alfonso’s) conduct does not appear to have caused actual harm to his clients, conduct of this nature has the effect of damaging the reputation of the legal profession as a whole,” the Law Society said.
Ultimately, Alfonso was fined $20,000 plus $3,500 in costs. He has 60 days to pay.
READ MORE: Kelowna lawyer who embezzled $100,000 suspended
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