COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - More than $125,000 was given to victims of attorney theft Friday morning by the Board of Commissioners of the Clients' Security Fund of Ohio.

The state Supreme Court announced the board's decisions, which benefits 26 victims of theft by lawyers. Eleven former or suspended Ohio attorneys were found to have misappropriated client funds.

The CSF has given more than $12 million since it was established in 1985 by the state Supreme Court. It is funded by registration fees paid by state attorneys and judges.

"The purpose of the Fund is to compensate clients who sustain financial losses resulting from dishonest acts by attorneys acting in a fiduciary or legal capacity," a message from Chief Justice Thomas Moyer says on the court's Web site.

"While the vast majority of attorneys in Ohio discharge their duties in an honest and professional manner, there are a few who violate the trust placed in them by their clients. The Clients' Security Fund represents an effort by the legal profession to provide a source of recovery."

The following is a recap of the Board's decisions, provided by the state Supreme Court:

-Two former clients of former attorney James L. Major Jr. were reimbursed a total of $2,775 as a result of Major's failure to provide the services requested. Major resigned from the practice of law in Ohio, with discipline pending, on Sept. 28, 2007;

-A former client of former attorney Michael L. Zaremsky was reimbursed $3,000 as a result of Zaremsky's failure to provide the services requested. Zaremsky resigned from the practice of law in Ohio, with discipline pending, on May 30, 2006;

- Four former clients of suspended Franklin County attorney Madry L. Ellis were reimbursed a total of $14,000 as a result of Mr. Ellis' failure to provide the services requested. Ellis' license to practice law was suspended on Oct. 16;

-Nine former clients of Christopher G. Gueli were reimbursed a total of $27,787.50 as a result of his failure to provide the services requested. Gueli was permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio on Sept. 25;

-A former client of former attorney Daniel S. Smith was reimbursed $1,000 as a result of Smith's failure to provide the services requested. Smith was permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Ohio on Feb. 15, 2006;

-The Board determined that three former clients of suspended Hamilton County attorney Kenneth L. Lawson were eligible for reimbursement of legal fees paid to Lawson for services that he failed to provide. The Board reimbursed a total of $8,750 to Lawson's former clients. Lawson's license to practice law in Ohio was suspended indefinitely on July 9;

-The Board determined that a former client of Lake County attorney Mark M. Simonelli was eligible for reimbursement of $220 paid to Simonelli for legal services that he failed to provide. Simonelli was suspended from the practice of law in Ohio on April 18, 2007;

-A former client of suspended attorney Jeffrey T. Lowden was reimbursed $300. The Board determined that Lowden failed to provide the services requested. Lowden's license to practice law in Ohio was suspended on March 20;

-The Board determined that a former estate client of deceased Marion County attorney Frank K. Reber was eligible for reimbursement of $60,429.12. The Board's decision was based upon a finding that prior to his death, Reber failed to distribute or otherwise account for funds belonging to the estate. Reber's death occurred on April 22, 2007;

-A former client of suspended Stark County attorney Steven L. Lo Dico was reimbursed $6,000 as a result of Lo Dico's failure to provide the services requested. Lo Dico was suspended indefinitely from the practice of law in Ohio on May 29; and

-The Board reimbursed a total of $800 to two former clients of deceased Trumbull County attorney Charles I. Swartz. The Board found that Swartz received funds for legal services that he failed to provide prior to his death on May 28, 2007;

Ohio has more than 35,000 attorneys engaged in the active practice of law, and less than 0.1 percent of those attorneys are involved in CSF claims, the court says.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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