Paralegal Buys Law Practice from Elderly Lawyer for $20.00

J0400849 This goes right up there in the "Hall of Shame" red file.  According to the ABA Journal (quoting from the Orange County Register in Orange County, CA), a paralegal "bought" a law practice valued at $750,000 from an elderly, 84-year-old lawyer for $20.00.

The lawyer, suffering from dementia, sold his practice to 42 year-old Mario David Abernathy of Garden Grove, CA. 

Abernathy was sentenced to two years in state prison for felony grand theft from an elderly person. He was also ordered to pay $15,300 in restitution to the victim. In addition, the grant deed and documents transferring the victim's law practice, estate and finances to the defendant and his family were ordered to be declared null and void.

The Orange County Public Guardian obtained temporary conservatorship to protect the financial holdings of the attorney, whose wife of more than 50 years had recently died in July 2008, according to a statement released Friday by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Abernathy, who is informally trained as a paralegal, met the attorney in August, 2008 and befriended the victim. Abernathy then started to take advantage of the victim's deteriorating medical condition, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami.

The Orange County Public Guardian noticed an unauthorized withdrawal from the victim's bank account and alerted Anaheim Police after they were unable to locate the attorney.

Anaheim police arrested Abernathy on Sept. 26, 2008, when they found him with the victim in a fast-food parking lot. Prosecutors did not make public the name of the victim because of his medical condition and out of concern for his privacy.