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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

McConnell Hancock clients' missing money tallied

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A final report shows that nearly $335,000 is missing from the estates of past clients of Karyn McConnell Hancock, a former Toledo attorney who is being investigated for thefts.

Attorney Jim Caruso, who was appointed in February as special master commissioner to review the Lucas County probate cases, Tuesday filed a report on the estate of Samuel L. Chapman. The report indicated $34,632.46 was missing from the Chapman estate, bringing the amount missing from Ms. McConnell Hancock's probate clients to the more than $300,000 figure. She is also being investigated for thefts from other clients.

The final report was filed with Probate Court and forwarded to the county prosecutor's office.

County Assistant Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson said he could not comment on the scope of the investigation, only that the prosecutor's office was being "diligent" in proceeding.

"New victims have come forward and that has led to further investigation," he said, adding the process has led to "other avenues of investigation."

Late last month, another allegation of theft came to light when Jimmy Gaines and Sharon Green-Gaines filed a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court naming Ms. McConnell Hancock as a defendant. The lawsuit, filed June 26, claimed that the couple hired Ms. McConnell Hancock after Mrs. Green-Gaines was involved in a car crash in October, 2004.

"Without the knowledge, consent, or approval of the plaintiffs, defendant Karyn McConnell Hancock received a partial payment on the plaintiff's claims," the lawsuit said. "Without the plaintiffs' knowledge or consent, Ms. McConnell Hancock cashed the partial payment check by forging plaintiff's signature on the endorsement and absconded with the entire proceeds from such partial payment."

The lawsuit further accused Ms. McConnell Hancock of failing to settle beyond the $4,000 she received. The lawsuit is one of four civil lawsuits filed against the former attorney by clients claiming that Ms. McConnell Hancock forged and cashed their names on settlement checks or in one case, took money for a real estate transaction but did not complete the sale.

Ms. McConnell Hancock's attorney, Jerry Phillips, said his client continues to be cooperative with investigators and answers all questions posed to her.

According to the 12 reports completed by Mr. Caruso, Ms. McConnell Hancock used her legal escrow account to inappropriately deposit and withdraw funds. The investigation revealed that Ms. McConnell Hancock would deposit money from the estates into the account but only legally paid out small portions of it.

The reports labeled the rest of the funds as "missing."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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