Ken Paxton

Friday, November 17, 2006

Attorney General Abbott Obtains Plea, Verdict Against Accountant, Attorney In Major Estate Theft

CORPUS CHRISTI - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott applauded a guilty verdict handed down today in a Nueces County criminal fraud case that involved two men who diverted $400,000 from a dying man’s estate. A former accountant and attorney conspired to drain the estate of elderly coma victim Col. Arthur Wilson Carothers. His estate was valued at about $960,000. The victim had previously designated a church and university as the primary beneficiaries of his estate.

The scope of this white-collar crime is unconscionable, said Attorney General Abbott. These men worked together to clean out the trust fund of their own elderly client while he was in a coma following a pedestrian accident.

I am pleased we are exposing the depths to which both of these men would stoop to enrich themselves, and the justice that is being served upon them because of this crime.

Colin Kaufman, 59, a disbarred attorney, was found guilty of first-degree felony misapplication of fiduciary property and faces up to 99 years to life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial continues today before visiting District Judge Joaquin Villarreal III.

As the case headed to trial this week, Andrew Huffmeyer, 56 , a former certified public accountant, chose to plead guilty Monday to the identical charge in his role of helping Kaufman expend approximately $400,000 from the victim’s trust accounts. Huffmeyer will serve five years in prison for the crime but also testified in this week’s trial against co-conspirator Kaufman. Both men have since lost their professional licenses.

Carothers, who had been a client of Huffmeyer’s before 2002, was hit by a truck and fell into a coma. As a result of the accident, Carothers also had to have a leg amputated. An attorney who drafted Carothers’ will and trust testified for the state that fees for the services the two purported to provide should not have exceeded $17,000.

The two conspired with others to blatantly defraud Carothers and his estate, running up exorbitant expenses. As part of this scheme, the two billed the estate $49,000 for a trip to the northeast to change a signature card for estate management purposes, typically a simple and inexpensive legality. They also worked with others to charge Carothers’ estate more than $260,000 for conferences that were usually held at Corpus Christi restaurants.

Evidence presented during the trial proved that Kaufman was disbarred by the State Bar of Texas due to his unethical and illegal actions in a federal bankruptcy case. Kaufman was ordered to pay back $214,000 to the trust in this bankruptcy and later was ordered to pay the State Bar more than $40,000 in restitution for the cost of litigating his law license.

Indiana University Foundation and the United Methodist Church of Mulberry, Ind., were to be the primary beneficiaries of Carothers’ estate.

Assistant Attorneys General David Glickler and Shane Attaway prosecuted this case, with assistance from Nueces County Assistant District Attorney George Schimmel. The Attorney General took the case at the request of Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez.