Ex-lawyer's theft of $16M may bring change to state legal rules to protect vulnerable
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
Disbarred attorney Robert Graham received the maximum prison sentence possible Friday, after he admitted to stealing more than $16 million from his clients. Graham will spend the next 16 to 40 years behind bars.
With millions missing, what's next for these victims? Some of them, including the families of young orphans and the disabled, believe that loopholes in the way Nevada attorneys are regulated allowed Graham to get away with the theft, for years.
"We just would like to see the law in nevada changed to hold these attorneys accountable so this doesn't happen to somebody else,” said Antonio Pappalardo, who has been raising his three grandchildren with his wife for the last seven years.
The parents of Micaela, Noah and Madison Miller set up life insurance policies for the care of the kids should tragedy strike. Both parents were killed in a crash on I-15 near Stateline in 2010. The youngest, Madison, was only 18 months old.
"They left us this money so that we would have food to eat and clothes to wear,” said the oldest of the Miller children, Micaela, in court Friday.
After the tragic crash, Graham was hired to work through the parents' wishes, distributing the $1 million policy for the care of the kids. It never happened. Pappalardo feels this could have been prevented if Nevada attorneys faced tougher regulations put on by the Nevada State Bar. Under the supervision of the Nevada Supreme Court, the bar regulates the operations of attorneys working in Silver State.
"When we interviewed with Rob Graham he said he was bonded, he showed us his bond papers but he let those lapse and the state doesn't require that clients be notified if an attorneys bond lapses,” said Pappalardo.
"The system was designed in a way to hide those things,” said attorney Scott Cantor', who represents one of Graham's victims. Cantor’s client, Sharona DiGani, is quadriplegic, was left penniless of the $2 million medical malpractice settlement she'd won.
Cantor says these victims' calls for change, have been heard by Nevada attorneys.
"There is a move now through the state bar to require attorneys to carry malpractice insurance, for example. There is a move now to have attorneys to have their trust accounts audited on a random basis,” he said.
Cantor says the state bar is polling attorneys, trying to get a handle on how to stop something like this from ever happening in Nevada, again. For some though, it may be too late; leaving arguably the most vulnerable clients attorneys work with seven figures short.
“He has taken away money from children. We can't do anything about it,” said Miller.
In addition to a sentence of 16 to 40 years prison time, the judge also ordered Graham to pay back the million he stole from his clients, as restitution. The victims say they doubt he'll ever do that.