Jan 25, 2010: The Rhode Island State Police have charged a former Rhode Island lawyer, Robert D. Natal, with 11 felony counts of unlawful appropriation for misappropriating $1.1 million in client funds. The police began investigating Attorney Robert Natal after the chief disciplinary counsel for the Rhode Island Supreme Court filed a complaint with the State Police Financial Crimes Unit, the police announced. That complaint alleged that Natal received funds from real estate closings and failed to remit them to the sellers or to pay off mortgages as detailed on HUD-1 settlement statements, according to the state police. In the midst of the police investigation, more apparent victims made complaints to the chief disciplinary counsel and the financial crimes unit, increasing the total amount Natal is accused of misappropriating to $1,136,013.77.
The police say the investigation has revealed that during a nine-month period in 2008, when the closings occurred, Natal transferred $252,705 from his escrow account to his law office operating account. He apparently made hundreds of transactions using those funds for personal use, the state police say, including purchases at restaurants, clothing stores, grocery stores and department stores. The state police also say he bought airline tickets with the money, paid other travel expenses and made cash withdrawals.