A Newport lawyer under suspension since 2009 for violating a court order that he repay a loan to a former client was sent to jail Thursday for violating that same order.
12-2009 - The state Supreme Court has barred Newport lawyer John T. Sheehan from practicing law indefinitely for violating a court order that he repay a loan to a former client. The court, in addition, suspended Sheehan's law license for 42 months upon the resolution of that matter. The suspensions stem from two separate matters examined by the court's chief disciplinary counsel David D. Curtin.
In the first, Sheehan asked client Mona Woo in 2006 to loan him $50,000, saying it would be secured by a mortgage on a Providence property. Sheehan executed a promissory note agreeing he would repay the loan, plus 12 percent, with monthly payments of $500. Sheehan also executed a mortgage deed in Woo's name on the 61 Bergen St. property in Providence.
In September 2006, the owner of that property, Bergen 59 Associates, sold 61 Bergen St. Sheehan at the time was listed as managing partner of Bergen 59 Associates. Sheehan provided the buyer's lawyer with a "discharge of mortgage" purportedly signed by Woo that released her interest in the property, Woo did not sign the discharge and Sheehan later admitted he signed her name without her knowledge or consent, the court said. Sheehan did not tell Woo the property had been sold or that Bergen 59 Associates received $27,725 in net proceeds from the sale. He did not give her money from the sale and continued to make sporadic $500 monthly payments.Woo filed a civil suit alleging breach of contract. Sheehan entered an agreement that later became a court order that he would repay the outstanding loan, plus interest. Sheehan has not abided by the order and has been found in contempt. Sheehan, the court says, violated court rules of conduct by not informing Woo to seek independent professional advice before loaning him money and failing to get her consent before selling the property. In addition, he engaged in dishonest conduct by forging her name and falsely notarizing her forged signature.
In the second matter, Sheehan agreed to pay state Sen. William A. Walaska $12,250 in back rent when Sheehan entered a purchase and sales agreement to buy 34 Bayside Ave., the house he had been renting in Newport. In November 2006, Sheehan gave Walaska, D-Warwick, a $12,250 check drawn on an account named John T. Sheehan Jr., Attorney-at-Law, Escrow Account. Sheehan's checks repeatedly bounced. Walaska filed a criminal complaint that was withdrawn when Sheehan paid the money he owed.
The state police alerted Curtin to the matter. Sheehan told Curtin he had drawn the money from a personal bank account that was not used from clients. An investigation revealed that Sheehan had lied and that the account was for personal and client use, which is prohibited by the lawyers' professional conduct code. In addition, the court's disciplinary board cited him for dishonest conduct for making false statements.
It was not the first time Sheehan violated the rule, according to the court. In 1995, he was suspended from practicing law for the same reason. He was also publicly censured for arranging a loan of probate estate funds at exorbitant rates.