STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Williams R. Lewis, Jr., Complainant vs. Mario L. Mozzillo, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #95-0761
Pursuant to Practice Book §27J, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, Connecticut on December 5, 1996. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on March 20, 1996 and the determination filed by the New Haven Judicial District, Geographical Areas 7 & 8 Grievance Panel on June 25, 1996, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.15(a) and (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on October 22, 1996. At the hearing on December 5, 1996, the Complainant appeared and testified before this reviewing committee. The reviewing committee also heard the testimony of Michael Papacoda. The Respondent did not appear. The reviewing committee denied the Respondent's November 30, 1996 request for a continuance.
This reviewing committee makes the following findings by clear and convincing evidence:
In or around 1985, the Complainant was approached by the Respondent in connection with the Respondent's involvement in real estate transactions. The Respondent solicited funds from the Complainant to fund an "escrow account" to be used by the Respondent in connection with real estate investments. The Complainant was to receive a return of his money with interest of twenty to twenty-five percent. Initially the Complainant provided the Respondent with $500.00 and subsequently received $600.00 back in less than six months. The Complainant subsequently invested $2,000.00 and received $2,500.00 back and then $5,000.00 and received $6,000.00 back. In or around the late 80's, the Respondent informed the Complainant that he should be making greater money. The Complainant then obtained unsecured loans to fund his investments with the Respondent. The Complainant provided the Respondent in excess of $90,000.00 under certain conditions including that the funds be held in a separate escrow account with certain conditions; interest would be earned and the principal returned when the note became due; no risk of losing funds; and the funds could be withdrawn in a financial emergency. The Respondent has not returned all of the funds provided by the Complainant despite repeated promises to do so by the Respondent. The funds provided to the Respondent by the Complainant belong to the Complainant and other third parties. The Complainant received a check from the Respondent for $1,500.00 representing a portion of the amount owed.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence:
This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondent's conduct in connection with his handling of funds provided to him by the Complainant relative to real estate investments involves a breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent failed to promptly deliver to the Complainant funds that he was entitled to receive in violation of Rule 1.15(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. While the grievance panel did not cite Rule 8.4(c) in its probable cause determination, facts that we have found by clear and convincing evidence support a violation of this additional Rule of Professional Conduct. We believe that a judge of the Superior Court in a de novo presentment proceeding needs to consider the presentment in light of the relevant Rules of Professional Conduct. We find by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to return all of the funds provided by the Complainant, despite repeated promises to do so by the Respondent. Since we conclude that the Respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and in consideration of the seriousness of the misconduct, we recommend that the Statewide Grievance Committee file a presentment against the Respondent to the Superior Court for whatever disposition the court deems appropriate.
Attorney Suzanne Powers
Mr. Carmen Donnarumma