A permanently disbarred former Baton Rouge attorney accused of collecting more than $75,000 for work he never completed is expected to surrender to authorities Tuesday following a criminal investigation into the fraudulent billing allegations.
Bruce A. Craft, the former attorney, agreed to turn himself in to East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest several days ago, according to a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman and Craft’s attorney.
Craft, 48, allegedly took nearly $76,000 from more than a dozen clients between 1999 and 2013 without fulfilling his legal duties to the clients, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.
Craft permanently resigned from practicing law in September 2013. Any Louisiana lawyer facing or expecting to face formal attorney misconduct charges can permanently resign, although by doing so the attorney must agree never to practice law anywhere else in the future.
At the time of his resignation, Craft had more than 100 “open and active” legal cases, said Charles “Chuck” Plattsmier, chief disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.
A team of volunteers spent hundreds of hours reviewing the cases and contacting Craft’s former clients. The vast majority of clients received their files, Plattsmier said, although some of Craft’s former clients couldn’t be located.
In early October, a lawyer representing the Louisiana Client Assistance Fund reported to deputies that 14 of Craft’s former clients came to them requesting reimbursements for payments made to Craft before he resigned. Six of the clients told authorities Craft didn’t do any work for them, while the other eight claimed he only did minimal work for them, the Sheriff’s Office report says.
After reviewing the claims, the assistance fund paid nearly $60,000 to Craft’s former clients.
“He owed them a refund,” Plattsmier said. “And in almost no instance has he paid that refund.”
John S. McLindon, Craft’s attorney, defended his client Monday night, saying they have not yet had the opportunity to review the case files in question.
“Bruce maintains his innocence,” McLindon said. “But we want the opportunity to go through the files of these clients and analyze them ourselves.”
Craft, who worked hundreds of criminal and civil cases in Baton Rouge before his resignation, is the ex-husband of Jill Craft, a prominent Baton Rouge attorney. The couple divorced in 2004.
Bruce Craft filed for bankruptcy in federal court on several occasions in recent years. Earlier this year, he was approved for C hapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
A conviction carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, or both.
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