Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lawyer disbarred for bilking clients of $50K

Law society hands file to police for investigation

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A Winnipeg lawyer has been disbarred after admitting to misappropriating at least $50,000 from several of his clients.

Jeff Andrew Salmon, 35, will no longer be able to practise law anywhere in Canada following a disciplinary hearing last week before the Law Society of Manitoba.

Salmon didn't deny charges of professional misconduct or fight for a lesser sanction.

He has since left the province.

However, Salmon may not be done with the legal system. Law society CEO Alan Fineblit said the matter has now been forwarded to Winnipeg police for a criminal investigation.

"That's an automatic for us," said Fineblit. "It will likely take some time (before charges may be laid). It's usually a slow process."

Salmon was called to the bar in 2009 and worked briefly at Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson before branching out on his own in 2011. Fineblit said that's when the thefts began. They were eventually uncovered during an audit in 2012.

Essentially, Salmon admitted using stolen money from one client to cover for money he'd taken from another. Fineblit said that created a situation where "it was inevitable" he was going to get caught.

Salmon has not repaid any of the money or disclosed what it was being used for. The Law Society of Manitoba has now repaid all of the victims through a pool account all Manitoba lawyers pay into for these types of situations. They will now seek to go after Salmon for reimbursement but could face a difficult fight.

"We're not that optimistic," said Fineblit.

Fineblit said disbarring Salmon was really the only recourse for the society, given such a gross breach of trust. It's a rare sanction, taken against less than one lawyer per year on average.

Most recently, a veteran Manitoba criminal lawyer was stripped of his licence following repeated procedural and ethical violations. Ron Nadeau was disbarred last fall after being charged with 60 violations, which were uncovered by an audit of his private practice.

Nadeau was found to have improperly pocketed retainer fees from clients rather than placing them in trust, as is required.

Nadeau was based out of Winnipeg but did much of his work in northern Manitoba communities and would often take payment from clients in the form of credits on his Northern Store account. He would then use the money to purchase groceries, clothing and other items such as cigars.

However, no criminal investigation resulted, as the services that were paid for were in fact rendered.

But Nadeau made his personal situation worse by misleading the law society when questioned about it and even falsifying records in an attempt to cover up what he'd done.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2014 A5

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