Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Embattled attorney charged with 'aggravated white collar crime'
May 16, 2011 10:47 PM
By: Tom McLaughlin - Daily News
Destin attorney R. Scott Whitehead, who is serving a 21-month sentence for several alcohol-related violations, was charged Monday with racketeering.
Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar said Whitehead was due to be released May 26.
“If we’d waited too long, who’s to say we would have found him,” Edgar said.
A news release sent out by the State Attorney’s Office said Whitehead was charged with “aggravated white collar crime and racketeering” — both first-degree felonies.
It said that from 2005 through 2010, Whitehead “illegally obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of his former clients.”
It said Whitehead lied to clients, billed them for services he didn’t render and made unauthorized charges on their credit cards.
An addendum of probable cause for the arrest indicates investigators found at least 27 people who claimed to be victims of Whitehead’s crimes.
One woman claimed she lost custody of her child due to Whitehead’s lack of attention to her case. Kye Lin, owner of The Shanghai restaurant in Niceville, claims to have lost more than $50,000.
Summer Suggs told authorities she hired Whitehead to assist her in a child custody case. The probable cause affidavit states she paid the attorney $8,000 and he “promised that custody would be reversed.”
Suggs told investigators that Whitehead failed to return phone calls and “appeared high, sweating and belligerent” at court appearances and meetings.
When Suggs told Whitehead she wanted a new attorney, the report said, he requested two more weeks to work out the case. He was arrested two days later and never returned the funds he’d accepted or the “personal folder” he’d obtained from Suggs.
“Ms. Suggs and Ms. Lawhon (Suggs’ mother) believe that as a result of Mr. Whitehead’s actions Ms. Suggs lost custody of her daughter,” the report states.
Lin, the restaurateur, hired Whitehead to defend her in a personal injury suit, the probable cause affidavit said. The attorney collected a $5,000 retainer fee paid with a credit card, the report said.
• Read the probable cause affidavit. » http://richmedia.onset.freedom.com/nwfdn/llbmr5-17whitehead.pdf
“As her case progressed, Ms. Lin noticed numerous credit card charges were transacted on from her credit card accounts by Mr. Whitehead … the total unauthorized charges exceed $50,000,” the report said.
Lin said the charges on her card were unauthorized and, when she asked Whitehead for reimbursement, he told her “the insurance company would reimburse her.”
In the criminal case of Shawn McDonald, investigators say, Whitehead informed Circuit Court Judge William Stone of his intention to turn his client’s reimbursement check for $15,000 over to the clerk of courts.
The state attorney trying the case in question vouched for Whitehead’s character, the affidavit stated. “To this date Mr. Whitehead has never paid any amount into the clerk in this case,” the probable cause affidavit said.
Whitehead has been in jail since October 2010, when County Judge T. Patterson Maney added an additional nine months to a 12-month sentence because probation officers reported he’d failed to submit to an alcohol test.
By that time, Whitehead had racked up several alcohol-related arrests. It started when he was arrested twice in an eight-day period in 2009 for leaving the scene of an accident, speeding, driving with a suspended license and DUI.
He violated his probation on those charges when he was arrested for criminal mischief in August 2009.
He was arrested again in May 2010 for violating his probation. He entered the home of man who didn't know him and asked about a woman named “Becky” or “Barbara.”
A sheriff's deputy reported at the time of the last arrest that Whitehead appeared intoxicated and urinated on himself.
If convicted of the racketeering and aggravated white collar crime charges, Whitehead faces up to 60 years in prison, the State Attorney’s Office news release states.
The release also states the investigation in Whitehead’s case is ongoing, and “persons with information” are asked to call Edgar at (850) 595-4253.
See the additional 10 pages at:
Posted by Concerned Consumer at 11:23 AM