By Greg Moran
FEB. 1, 2013
An Escondido attorney has agreed to be disbarred after admitting she stole $275,000 from an elderly client’s inheritance, then repeatedly lied and created fake records to try to cover up the theft.
Sydney Claire Kirkland also faces criminal charges of grand theft and stealing from an elderly adult, according to the State Bar of California, the agency that regulates the state’s lawyers.
Kirkland drained all but $10,000 from a trust account set up by 80-year-old Grover Gordon Jr., a client of hers. He had inherited $285,730 from his longtime friend and housemate, Jeanette Letman, when she died in January 2011.
Gordon put the money in a client trust account with Kirkland, who had previously done legal work for him and Letman and was a co-trustee of the estate.
The state bar said that over the next 11 months Kirkland siphoned out $275,642 from the account.
Not all of it has been accounted for, but the bar said $23,000 was used to help buy an Audi for Kirkland, and other amounts were transferred to her husband and others.
In June 2011, the county’s Adult Protective Services got involved after receiving a complaint from a bank manager. When questioned, Kirkland told the agency that the money was invested in two certificates of deposit and an unnamed investment fund — all of which was fiction.
Gordon later hired another attorney who sued to get Kirkland removed as co-trustee of the estate. During that process, Kirkland created a fake account statement for the trust, showing that all of the money was there. Even after she was removed as co-trustee, she continued to drain money, the bar said.
Kirkland, a lawyer since 2001, became ineligible to practice law Jan. 19.
SOURCE: UT SanDiego
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