Resign from law society or face disbarment, disgraced city lawyer told


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A Winnipeg lawyer and former property manager who admitted to misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property trust funds has been told he can either resign from the province’s law society or be disbarred.

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A Winnipeg lawyer and former property manager who admitted to misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property trust funds has been told he can either resign from the province’s law society or be disbarred.

Jeff Rabb, the former head of Winpark Dorchester Properties, was penalized by Manitoba’s provincial court and securities commission in 2019 for a systematic scheme he orchestrated to divert money earned by properties he managed on behalf of third-party owners for his own benefit.

On Nov. 27 that year he was ordered to pay a total of $100,000 to the Manitoba Securities Commission and was barred for life from being registered with the commission. Later that day, he was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest and ordered to pay another $20,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to criminal charges of false pretences over $5,000.

Rabb, 65, pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming of a lawyer at a Law Society of Manitoba discipline panel hearing on Dec. 12, according to a decision released Jan. 23. He had been charged in 2020. A charge of professional misconduct was stayed.

Rabb admitted to misappropriating more than $360,000 in trust funds from a number of the company’s properties between 2009 and 2015.

The society brought evidence that he altered invoices for work done on residences and other properties he, relatives, associates or employees owned to indicate the work was done on one of the company-managed properties, then paid out the invoice from the trust accounts for the properties.

Rabb also asked companies to change job site locations on invoices from residences to apartment block addresses and asked a company owner for at least one fake invoice, among other misappropriation.

He also used trust money to build a backyard hockey rink at his home.

The panel found the methods Rabb used to misappropriate the funds were not overly sophisticated and weren’t likely to remain undetected for long.

“Indeed, it is rather surprising that Mr. Rabb was able to continue his pattern of deceptions for as long as he did,” the panel wrote.

The discipline panel overseeing the regulator’s hearing determined Rabb must resign his membership within 30 days, or a period of time agreed to by the regulator, on the condition he never apply for membership in any law society again, or be disbarred.

In practice, the decision means Rabb will never again practise law.

Rabb was also ordered to pay $4,525 in costs to the society.

“We find that the public interest will be adequately protected, and its confidence in the legal profession will be preserved, by permitting Mr. Rabb to resign his membership,” the panel wrote in its decision.

The Law Society of Manitoba itself, separate from the discipline panel, had asked Rabb be disbarred, arguing the fact Rabb was not actively practising law at the time of misconduct was irrelevant.

“The misconduct — going as it does to the very heart of the honesty and integrity which the public is entitled to expect from lawyers — is of utmost concern,” the society submitted.

“It also reflects poorly on the profession as a whole.”

The decision notes Rabb had never been disciplined by the society prior to the 2020 charge since being called to the bar in 1983.

It also notes he co-operated with the police investigation, the society’s discipline process and the securities commission investigation, and has repaid all the misappropriated funds and the financial penalties imposed by the courts and the securities commission.

Rabb did not tender any formal evidence at the law society discipline panel hearing, but read a brief statement of apology.

“He accepted ‘full responsibility’ for his actions, offered ‘no excuses,’ and asked only that he be spared the ‘last humiliation’ of being disbarred,” the decision reads.

“The plea was clearly heartfelt and undoubtedly sincere.”

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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