Monday, January 31, 2005

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution: Blind trust: Who guards the guardians?
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution; 2/4/2001;
Ann Hardie, Staff

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution After Wayne Thompson suffered brain damage in a car wreck, the court had reason not to trust him with his money. On Monday, a grand jury is scheduled to consider the case of a man the court did trust --- Thompson's former guardian, already accused in a civil suit of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Newnan man's estate.
A criminal charge against a guardian would be a rarity in Georgia. Judges say they suspect guardians are stealing money in every county in Georgia, but the courts lack the resources to catch them. None can recall a guardian ever being prosecuted in the state.
Thompson's former guardian, Newnan lawyer Mark Gomez, repeatedly has denied wrongdoing in media interviews and court records. He has said he followed the law and "dutifully performed my financial fiduciary and other duties."
Coweta District Attorney Pete Skandalakis won't discuss details of an investigation, but he characterized these kinds of cases as "true crimes" and "devastating."
"I think the public would lose confidence if we routinely looked the other way in cases in which there has been criminal conduct," Skandalakis said.
The reality is, all too often, judges and prosecutors do look the other way
Questions about the way Thompson's estate was managed underscore the lack of accountability in the state's guardianship system, which is supposed to protect the assets of tens of thousands of Georgians who are either too young or too impaired to handle their own affairs. Many probate courts that oversee the system don't have the resources or expertise to protect against financial guardians intent on stealing money.
That is the consensus of dozens of judges, prosecutors, attorneys and advocates for the elderly and disabled who were interviewed about the state's guardianship system.
"The sad part is, that is why guardians who choose to break the law do it," said Atlanta lawyer Millard Farmer, who is suing Gomez on Thompson's behalf. "They think there is a good chance of getting by with it."
In most counties, probate judges don't even have to be attorneys.
Guardians who are caught stealing generally must pay the money back but face no other punishment. Probate courts seldom refer these instances to law enforcement.
That may be because prosecutors have been reluctant to pursue them when they are referred, judges say. Prosecutors face many of the same problems the probate courts do --- a lack of resources and an overwhelming caseload.
Prosecutors say investigating guardianship cases, a form of white-collar crime, typically is more time-consuming and complicated than murders and rapes.
cases, a form of white-collar crime, typically is more time-consuming and complicated than murders and rapes.
"There is a lot of truth to the fact that every DA office in this state is understaffed and underfinanced," Skandalakis said. "You do have to make calls on which cases you devote your resources to."
As a result, the neighbor who steals your VCR is more likely to be charged with a crime than the guardian who steals your life savings.
Courts overwhelmed, needy
Most guardians who misappropriate money, judges say, are parents or spouses who do so out of ignorance. But some guardians do it intentionally.
In one of the better known instances, Atlanta lawyer Ronald J. Freeman was briefly suspended from practicing law in 1998 after taking $935 from the estate of an incapacitated woman and giving it to his brother.
Freeman's law partner, not the Fulton County Probate Court, discovered the misconduct. Freeman then informed the court and the State Bar of Georgia of his actions and paid restitution.
The case took the legal community by surprise. Freeman, who faced the possibility of disbarment, had served as president of the Gate City Bar Association and member of the Atlanta Bar Association's judicial selection committee.
Freeman's psychiatrist said clinical depression had contributed to his actions. Dozens of influential people, including then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, wrote letters or testified on his behalf. He was suspended from practicing law for 90 days. No criminal charges were filed.
"I made a big mistake and I accepted the consequences of it and I've moved on," Freeman said.
Even the most vigilant probate courts are hard-pressed to uncover misconduct.
The reason, in part, is the sheer volume of guardianship cases in Georgia. No one even knows how many there are, because probate courts aren't required to keep those numbers.
In 1998, 10,552 new guardianship cases were opened in the two-thirds of Georgia counties that reported their caseloads. The figure does not include ongoing cases.
DeKalb County Probate Court alone handles an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 cases. Last year, the court removed 32 guardians for misconduct and ordered restitution in 20 cases. "We catch a lot of people," said DeKalb Probate Judge Marion Guess. "I'm sure we let some of them get by."
Since taking office in 1993, Gwinnett Probate Judge Jim Clarke says he has removed dozens of guardians for misappropriating funds and recovered more than $700,000 for estates under his supervision.
Clarke also began requiring guardians to file original bank statements verifying the funds in the estates. Copies of bank statements are no longer acceptable since he discovered firsthand that guardians found those easier to falsify.
"If you look hard enough, you will find problems," he said.
Some probate courts look harder than others. In Fulton County, three employees scrutinize an estimated 1,100 annual reports filed by guardians to detail their spending. The County Commission recently funded several new positions for the court's oversight of guardians.
Most counties aren't so receptive to the court's needs. Depending on the county, the duties of the probate judge can include everything from probating wills to hearing traffic cases to supervising elections to issuing marriage and gun licenses.
State law requires probate courts to "carefully examine" the guardians' annual reports, but some judges say they simply don't have the time or the staff to obey the law.
"If the probate court isn't going to do it, who is?" said Eleanor Crosby, chairwoman of the State Bar of Georgia's elder law section. "This is somebody's life. The court is in the best position to see if something is wrong and to correct it."
As it is now, most courts largely defer to the honesty and integrity of the guardians they appoint, probate judges say.
Managed dozens of estates
That is what Coweta Probate Judge Mary Cranford did when she named Gomez as Thompson's guardian in 1995. Thompson, 49, had won a multimillion-dollar settlement after sustaining a brain injury in a collision with a tractor-trailer.
While he can watch TV and tell a good joke, he is incapable of tasks that require more thorough reasoning, such as balancing his checkbook or budgeting his money.
Around Newnan, Gomez, 36, is known as a winsome and convincing trial attorney. He earned his law degree at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and worked as an assistant district attorney for Skandalakis before entering private practice.
In 1994, Gomez was appointed the county's guardian, a job that required him to step in when the Probate Court had no one else to appoint. Judge Cranford said she chose Gomez because he had the time and was willing to do the job. Over the years, he had managed dozens of estates.
But it wasn't long after he took over Thompson's money that people began raising concerns.
For two years, Thompson's family, medical team and Thompson himself complained to the court about possible misconduct and questionable expenditures.
Judge Cranford continued to put her faith in Gomez. She said she does not have the resources to hire investigators. Ultimately, she trusted Gomez, she said, because he is an attorney. "He is supposed to have a higher standard," Cranford said.
The Probate Court in Mobile, Ala., used to think that way until it learned an attorney there stole millions of dollars from the estates he managed.
In 1996, the former president of the Mobile County Bar Association, Thomas Bryant Jr., was convicted of stealing $3.2 million from six accounts. Bryant currently is serving a 120-year prison sentence.
"He did it to the old, the young, the infirm," said Tom Harrison, the Alabama prosecutor who tried the case. "It is not acceptable for anybody to do it. But it is especially horrendous when you start talking about a lawyer entrusted by the court to protect people."
The civil lawsuit against Gomez claims he "used his slick tongue, persuasive mannerisms and knowledge of the law to outwit and deceive" the Probate Court.
Judge Cranford is not an attorney. In Georgia, probate judges in all but the state's 14 largest counties don't have to be. Some question the wisdom of that law.
"Probate judges in smaller counties are eight parts politician, 1 1/2 part lawyer and half-part accountant --- that's a bad mix," said Farmer, the Atlanta lawyer who filed the suit against Gomez two weeks ago. "As honest as a probate judge wants to be, if they don't have a base of knowledge about accounting or the law, they can't fulfill their functions as the law intended."
Tax expert and auditor
The work of an accountant is integral to the civil and criminal cases against Gomez.
Thompson's family asked Rhonda McClendon, a certified public accountant, to serve as guardian when Gomez resigned in October 1999 in the midst of the district attorney's criminal investigation.
McClendon, a tax expert and auditor, also is experienced in ferreting out misappropriated funds. Over the years, corporations and state and local governments have employed her skills on embezzlement and theft cases.
For the past year, McClendon has concentrated on Thompson's situation. It hasn't been easy.
She said her firm has spent 751 hours --- the equivalent of 18 work weeks --- poring over bank accounts and reconstructing every transaction Gomez made during his four years as guardian.
"There were records missing," McClendon said. "We had to go back and get them from banks and vendors. That is always difficult. And there were so many years involved."
In the civil suit, McClendon claims that $225,364 from Thompson's estate was misappropriated or spent needlessly while Gomez served as guardian. Gomez used Thompson's money, the suit says, to pay himself unjustified legal fees, purchase computers for his law practice and install a hot tub Gomez used for sexual encounters.
Gomez's response to the lawsuit has not yet been filed.
But in an earlier affidavit responding to a different matter, Gomez said "no unnecessary expenses are being paid" from the estate and that he had foregone some commissions he had earned for managing Thompson's money. In his defense, he said the Probate Court had signed off on his annual reports.
In a 1999 letter, Judge Cranford wrote that she "reviewed the last two annual returns . . . and find no inappropriate expenditures."
The district attorney's office is relying on McClendon's investigation to help make its case. "It is a tremendous advantage to have someone who has a forensic accounting background working with you," Skandalakis said.
Probate judges say they really could use that kind of expertise in their courts. That would require money they currently don't have. Even the most aggressive courts say they detect only the most obvious misconduct in reviewing the annual reports.
"It is not hard for a motorcycle being bought for a 90-year-old to catch your eye," DeKalb's Judge Guess said. "But if someone has a sophisticated scheme, they'd fool us."
Hiring accountants, he said, would be the best way to detect wrongdoing.
"Then you'd probably have to hire extra judges to deal with everything they'd find," he said.
The courts could report guardians who steal to prosecutors. They almost never do.
Instead, probate judges are more intent on recovering stolen funds. "To me, the most important thing I do is ensure the money is there," said Clarke, Gwinnett's probate judge.
In Georgia, guardians are bonded for the value of the estates they manage. Typically, judges who uncover misconduct go after the bond and leave it up to the bonding company to go after the guardian.
But the bonding companies aren't interested in seeking criminal charges. A guardian can't repay them sitting in jail. Most prosecutors, overwhelmed by cases and strapped for resources, aren't that interested in pursuing these cases either, judges say. Especially when the victim has gotten his money back.
Harrison, the Alabama prosecutor who convicted Bryant, says that shouldn't matter. Bryant's bonding company repaid most of his victims.
"If I walked into a bank and put a gun in a teller's face, would they prosecute me?" Harrison said. "He did the same thing, only with a checkbook. All he had to do is sign his name."
Skandalakis would not predict the outcome of the Gomez case. But he left little doubt he took a particular interest in the case because Thompson is disabled and Gomez is an attorney.
"I took this job to help those who can't help themselves," Skandalakis said. "I do believe you should hold certain individuals to higher standards. You should hold attorneys to higher standards."
ILLUSTRATIONS/PHOTOS: The district attorney is looking into allegations that Mark Gomez (above) stole money from Wayne Thompson's estate
Wayne Thompson, being groomed by caregiver Pauline Bohanon, needed a guardian after a collision left him brain-damaged. / SUNNY SUNG / Staff
GEORGIA'S SYSTEM
How Georgia's guardianship system works:
The system was created to protect the estates of vulnerable Georgians so they don't become a burden to the state.
Probate courts in each of the state's 159 counties appoint financial guardians for adults judged incapable of managing their money for a variety of reasons, including mental illness, mental retardation or chronic drug use. Adults requiring guardians lose their right to spend their money as they wish and to enter into contracts, such as marriage, without the court's permission.
State law lays out a pecking order that the court must consider in selecting guardians. The wishes of the incapacitated adult, also known as the ward, should be given the highest priority, followed by a spouse, an adult child and so on. The judge can ignore the pecking order for good cause.
Each county's Probate Court has identified someone, often an attorney, to step in as financial guardian in the event a family member is not available.
Anyone, including a proposed ward, may petition the court for a guardianship. The court appoints a physician or psychologist to evaluate whether the person should be declared incapacitated. If there is probable cause that a guardianship is needed, a hearing is scheduled. The proposed ward is entitled to an attorney.
Georgians younger than 18, such as the beneficiaries of life insurance policies or legal claims, also may require guardians to oversee their financial affairs. Usually, courts appoint parents to serve as guardians.
The estate must be spent on the care and well-being of the ward and his or her dependents. In general, financial guardians are entitled to a 2.5 percent commission on the income and expenditures of the estates they handle.
For more information
Internet: www.gaprobate.org
Contact: Your county's Probate Court
Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, 404-657-9915 (toll-free at 1-888-257-9519)
Georgia Advocacy Office, 770-414-2940
Accountant Rhonda McClendon claims the former court-appointed guardian of a Newnan man misspent $225,364. / W.A. BRIDGES JR. / Staff
GUARDIANS IN GEORGIA
Tens of thousands of Georgians are believed to fall under the state's guardianship system. No reliable totals are available for ongoing cases, but here's a look at new petitions for guardianships*:
'94: 8,634
'95: 8,701
'96: 9,592
'97: 9,849
'98: 10,552
*Based on reports from about two-thirds of Georgia counties.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Mark Andrew Gomez - Supreme Court of the United States of America

Supreme Court disbars attorney



By W. WINSTON SKINNER

winston@newnan.com

The U. S. Supreme Court has disbarred former Newnan attorney Mark Andrew Gomez -- prohibiting him from presenting cases to the nation's highest court.

Gomez pleaded guilty to stealing funds from a client in Newnan three years ago and voluntarily gave up his law license at that time. Gomez was one of five attorneys ordered disbarred from the practice of law in this Court" by the U. S. Supreme Court on Monday.

The others were Timothy James Mathew Walk of Melbourne, Fla.; Shola Rannie Ayeni of Stafford, Va.; Daniel J. Gates of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Michael C. Vinyard of Ottumwa, Ia.

The U. S. Supreme Court issued an order suspending Gomez's right to practice law before that court on April 19. According to the ruling issued Monday, Gomez was served with the order "requiring him to show cause why he should not be disbarred."

The ruling also noted "the time to file a response has expired" -- apparently without a response from Gomez.

Gomez pleaded guilty in Coweta Superior Court in 2001 to theft by conversion. He was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to pay $15,000 restitution and ordered to surrender his law license.

In 1995, Gomez became the legal guardian of Gary Wayne Thompson, a former Federal Express Driver who was in a traffic accident that left him disabled and brain damaged. Thompson got a $3 million settlement, resulting in monthly payments of $9,000 monthly for 30 years.

Gomez was charged with defrauding Thompson of more than $225,000. He was charged with taking some funds and improperly spending others.

Gomez entered his guilty plea in February 2001. In April of that year, the Georgia Supreme Court accept his surrender of his law license.

Gomez first came to Coweta County as an assistant district attorney. He later opened a private practice.

The above article was taken from the Archives of the Newnan Times Herald : Scroll down to the last story on the linked page.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mark Andrew Gomez - Guilty

Mark A. Gomez was originally from Charleston, West Virginia. He was a captain in the U.S. Army and a graduate of Duke University. Learn how he blew it all:

Below is from the Newnan Times Herald:
Lawyer Gomez sentenced
Guardian pleads guilty, sentenced to five years probation, loses license
Published 3/1/01
By ALEX McRAE
Staff Writer

Mark Gomez said "I plead guilty, " and slowly hung his head.
With those three words, a highly-charged case alleging that a brain-injured Coweta County man was defrauded of more than $200,000 by Gomez in his capacity as a court-appointed legal guardian ended Wednesday morning in Coweta County Superior Court.
As Gomez stood quietly in the main courtroom at the Coweta County Courthouse, Judge William F. Lee Jr. accepted his plea of guilty to one charge of theft by conversion and sentenced Gomez to five years' probation, restitution in the amount of $15,000 and the loss of his law license.
Several years ago, Gary Wayne Thompson was a driver for Federal Express when a traffic accident left him disabled and brain-damaged. A lawsuit on Thompson's behalf was settled when Schneider Transport, whose vehicle was at fault in the accident, agreed to pay Thompson a $3 million settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement Thompson was to receive the funds over a period of 30 years in monthly installments of slightly over $9,000 each.
After the accident Thompson was put under the guardianship of his then-wife, Donna, but when she began divorce proceedings against Thompson in 1995, Gomez was appointed Thompson's guardian.
It was then, according to Coweta County District Attorney Pete Skandalakis, that Gomez began to deliberately defraud Thompson, misappropriating funds for personal use and to pay expenses at his law firm.
Shortly after Gomez assumed guardianship, family members began to claim that Thompson's personal care was being neglected and his funds were being improperly managed by Gomez.
Gomez eventually resigned as Thompson's guardian and filed a form called a "return" with the Coweta County Probate Court detailing the expenditures on Thompson's behalf and certifying that all funds had been spent properly. But upon being appointed Thompson's new guardian, Newnan accountant Rhonda McClendon contested the return filed by Gomez and ordered an investigation into Gomez' expenditure of Thompson's funds. After an investigation by McCLendon's husband, Charles Stone, a former GBI agent, McClendon alleged that more than $225,000 had been misspent by Gomez and hired attorney and Newnan native Millard Farmer to file civil suit against Gomez' bonding firm, Hartford Insurance, to recover the funds.
At the same time, Coweta District Attorney Pete Skandalakis was investigating possible criminal fraud charges against Gomez and several associates. On February 2, Gomez contacted Skandalakis and offered to plead guilty to specified charges and surrender his law license as well as pay restitution.
The emotional Wednesday morning court session which included personal pleas for strict punishment from the injured man's son, ex-wife and pastor, began at 10 a.m. when Skandalakis detailed the charges against Gomez, who acted as his own attorney. Gomez stated under oath that he understood the charges and that he waived his right to trial by jury. Skandalakis then reiterated that no arrangement had been made regarding sentence for the theft charge which carries a potential sentence of from two to fifteen years. Gomez again indicated his understanding.
At that point Judge Lee asked Skandalakis if anyone wished to speak prior to sentence being passed. Skandalakis said yes, and asked Thompson's son, Scott, to come forward.
As Gomez sat ten feet away with his head down and hands clasped, Scott Thompson began by saying, "This case is not about money. It's about the pain Mr. Gomez caused. The problem is not the abuse of money, but the abuse of my dad."
The younger Thompson continued for several minutes describing what he characterized as a "struggle" to visit his father or see to his care after Gomez was appointed Thompson's guardian. Scott Thompson said not long after Gomez took the job he felt that his father's health was not being monitored properly and that funds for his care were being misspent. Thompson said he went to both Gomez and Coweta County Probate Judge Mary Cranford, whose office oversees the guardian program, and asked for relief.
"I asked Judge Cranford to do what's right," he said, "and she ignored me."
Scott Thompson claimed that shortly after assuming guardianship, Gomez, against the family's wishes, moved Thompson out of an apartment and used Thompson's funds to purchase a home for the disabled man which, according to the son, "my father could not maintain or enjoy." Scott Thompson said conditions became deplorable at the house. He described piles of dirty dishes and trash littering the house, filthy and broken toilets, roach infestations and a general state of neglect in the house and around the yard.
The son said his father was also diagnosed as a borderline diabetic at the time, but that Gomez failed to see to his dietary or medical needs, resulting in medical complications which could have been prevented.
He said that after Gomez and Cranford ignored his pleas for intervention, he finally went to law enforcement authorities. "I have no doubt if we had not taken control of the case, my father would be dead," Thompson said.
"I lost part of my dad when I was 16, Scott Thompson said. "Gomez was trying to take the other part. He used my dad's money to hurt him."
In closing, young Thompson said to Lee, "I ask that you treat Mark Gomez as he treated my father."
Thompson's ex-wife Donna Thompson Milliken spoke next. Like Scott Thompson, she testified to the lack of care given to Thompson and said that her calls for help to Gomez and Cranford went unheeded as well. "They would put a person in jail if they did to a child what Mark Gomez did... He should be punished," she said. "He pleaded guilty because he knew he wasn't going to jail. It isn't right."
Thompson's Pastor Melvin Payne, of Westside Baptist Church, said that after Gomez became his guardian, Thompson's regular church attendance became sporadic. When Thompson did manage to attend services, Payne said he was shocked at his appearance. "He was always so proud of the way he looked," Payne said. "And he'd come in and he'd need a bath with his hair down to his shoulders and not combed and it just made me sick."
"They were a solid family before this tragedy happened," Payne said, referring to the traffic accident.
Payne related that one day Thompson called and said "I'm a prisoner in my own house. The phone is tapped and this group is down my throat every time I do something." Payne said Thompson went on to say that Gomez and Cranford had said "If you don't behave we're gonna put you in the nursing home. "
"He told me, 'Pastor do something...I'm losing my mind,'" Payne said.
Payne concluded by saying "This is not about money, it's about willful neglect. If they do the crime, they should do the time."
Millard Farmer then spoke and surprised Thompson's family by asking Lee to not sentence Gomez to jail. "It's as serious as it gets when you strip someone of their law license," Farmer said. "I don't know of any punishment any more severe than what the DA has asked for."
Farmer asked the judge to bring the case to closure and not order jail time.
"There is a bond that covers the money," Farmer said. "Mark Gomez is not going to prey on anyone any more. A jail sentence would be a light punishment."
Christina Craddock, an attorney representing Hartford Insurance, Gomez' bonding firm, also spoke against jail time for Gomez. "The greatest thing is if he can pay," Craddock said. "And he can't pay if he's in jail."
Before passing sentence, Lee asked asked Gomez his age, where he attended college and law school, and about military service. Gomez said he had served as an attorney in the U.S. Army and then in the Coweta County District Attorney's office before entering private practice.
Lee then sentenced Gomez to five years probation and ordered him to surrender his law license and pay restitution in the amount of $15,000 by July 1, 2001. Gomez was also ordered to certify to the court that any legal cases he was working on prior to the sentencing be assigned to other attorneys.
Lee then said, "Go with the Probation Officer," and Gomez left through a door in the back of the courtroom.
Following the sentencing, Millard Farmer stated that the civil suit against Gomez continues and that he intends to collect on Thompson's behalf. Speaking of Gomez, Farmer said, "We're out to de-habilitate him. because he's a thief.'
Family members were upset that Gomez' punishment had not been harsher.
Scott Thompson said, "I'm disappointed. I think he got off easy. You've seen those bumper stickers that say 'I love my country but I don't trust my government?' That's how I feel right now. I'm heartbroken. I've spent 5 years of my life fighting this thing. I know the judge and the DA did what they could, but it's not enough."
Donna Thompson Milliken said, "It was what I expected, but not what I hoped for. But I'm glad I got to say what I did," she added. "And I'm glad he was there to hear it."
Pete Skandalakis said he understood the family's frustration but felt there was nothing more his office could do given the evidence they had. "His conduct was reprehensible," Skandalakis said, "but we had to confine our case to what we were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. It's obvious Thompson received negligent care, but there are no other charges pending; and based on interviews so far, there are no other criminal charges we could bring."
Skandalakis added, "I take no satisfaction in having prosecuted someone who once worked for me."
One of the last people to leave the courtroom was Gary Wayne Thompson. Asked how he felt about the verdict, Thompson said, "It's like being slapped around. Ain't no way to make it feel good 'til I hear the bars slamming shut."

Mark Gomez - Coweta County

Below is an easy to use set of links that will help you to understand the evil committed by Mark Andrew Gomez, a former lawyer from Newnan Georgia

Rico Complaint

Newnan Times - second story down by Winston Skinner

U.S. Supreme Court August 2, 2004 Decision - Scroll to bottom

Newnan Times - GBI probe of missing money continuing - scroll down in second story

Newnan Times Article copied on Millard Farmers site

Mark Gomez

Mark A. Gomez - Newnan Lawyer - former that is

Read the Rico complaint against Mark A. Gomez brought by Atlanta attorney Millard Farmer:



Mark Andrew Gomez - Newnan Coweta Attorney

Below are links that will lead you to pages that tell the true character of Mark Andrew Gomez. Mark Gomez was an attorney in Newnan, Georgia located in Coweta County, Georgia. He served as a lawyer in Newnan, Coweta County.
Judicial/Attorney Misconductin State of Georgia - He made the list!

Read what the U.S. Supreme Court said about Mark Gomez :

D-2376 IN THE MATTER OF DISBARMENT OF MARK ANDREW GOMEZ
Mark Andrew Gomez, of Newnan, Georgia, having been suspended from the practice of law in this Court by order of April 19, 2004; and a rule having been issued and served upon him requiring him to show cause why he should not be disbarred; and the time to file a response having expired;
It is ordered that Mark Andrew Gomez is disbarred from the practice of law in this Court.

Story below is from the Newnan Times Herald 5/8/01
Court OKs lawyer's license surrender
Published 5/8/01
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Assistant News Editor

The petition of Mark Andrew Gomez to voluntarily surrender his law license has been accepted by the Georgia Supreme Court.
Gomez, who practiced law in Newnan for several years, pleaded guilty in February to stealing and misusing funds belonging to Gary Wayne Thompson. Gomez served as legal guardian for Thompson, who suffers from a permanent brain injury, for several years starting in 1995.
Court paperwork in a civil suit pending against Gomez lists missing or wasted funds totalling $225,364.
In an April 30 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court accepted Gomez's petition to surrender his license. "In the petition, Gomez admits that he knowingly, freely and voluntarily entered a plea of guilty to a single count of the criminal offense of theft by conversion, a felony violation of the Criminal Code of Georgia," the ruling stated.
Gomez's conviction on that charge violates one of the rules of the State Bar of Georgia. "The maximum penalty for a violation" of that rule "is disbarment," the high court ruling stated.
"We have reviewed the record and agree to accept Gomez's petition for the voluntary surrender of his license. Accordingly, the name of Mark Andrew Gomez is hearby removed from the rolls of persons entitled to practice law in... Georgia," the justices ruled.
Under the ruling, Gomez was reminded to notify all clients in a timely manner "of his inability to represent them" and "to take all actions necessary to protect their interests," the ruling stated. Evidence of such action must be provided to the Georgia Supreme Court.
All of the justices concurred in the ruling.
Allegations about misuse of Thompson's funds and mistreatment of Thompson first were made public more than a year before Gomez entered his plea earlier this year. When the allegations first were raised, Gomez categorically denied any wrongdoing.
District Attorney Peter Skandalakis noted Monday that his office did not recommend a sentence when Gomez entered his plea, although his office did negotiate the surrender of Gomez's bar license as a part of the plea negotiations.


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