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Young BC lawyer improperly moved $2.M through trusts

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An inexperienced lawyer pleaded guilty to “professional misconduct” after his trust account was used like a personal bank account to evade Canada’s suspicious transaction reporting system.

A BC attorney who improperly moved $2.1 million through a trust account for a client’s questionable business transactions, cryptocurrency transfers and luxury goods purchases has reached a settlement with the BC Law Association Disciplinary Commission. , dropped the money laundering allegations.

In its November 9 ruling, the commission sentenced Samuel Osei to a four-month suspension and a $3,500 fine.

The committee attributed many of Osei’s mistakes to being a relatively new attorney with little experience. Nonetheless, by allowing customers to “effectively” use their trust accounts (which are not subject to the Federal Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Reporting Act) as personal bank accounts, Osei is a “professional was found to have committed the above fraudulent act. Properly identified clients and associates despite what the panel considered red flags.

Osei graduated from the University of Victoria Law School in 2013, was called up to the BC legal profession in 2014, and worked for Prince George before moving to the Lower Mainland in March 2016.

Osei practiced as a private practice in the Lower Mainland and had limited contact with other lawyers, except for one with whom he shared office space.

The attorney referred a client (“MP”). The client’s transactions raised money laundering concerns from law association investigators after routine audits. Osei initially did not obtain identification from his client, believing it was unnecessary as he had been referred by another attorney.

From April 2016 to August 2017, the client paid Osei $5,000 per month. This made up the “majority” of his income. His relationship with the client lasted until December 2017, when he noted that a disciplinary action had been taken. The ruling outlines a number of his six-figure transactions made through Osei’s trust account, which can only be used for legal services in accordance with society’s regulations.

On one occasion, Osei received a trust of $390,000 from two numbered companies, but these companies did not show any concrete ties to their clients. Osei said that at the direction of his clients he paid $425,000 to three investment firms, but that he had “little or no knowledge of the identities of the companies involved” and did not perform any legal work related to those transactions. did. Nor did he confirm the source of the funding, the law association found.

In May 2017, Osei paid $15,104 to a European luxury watch dealer at the direction of a customer.

Then, in July 2017, Osei deposited $200,000 into a trust account from a cryptocurrency buyer as security deposit. At a subsequent meeting, Osei witnessed his $210,000 cash transfer (using a cash counting machine) of crypto assets and returned the deposit.

After receiving another large deposit, Osei helped the client purchase another large cryptocurrency by transferring $390,000 from a trust account to an acquaintance of the client.

Societies received an email from a Canadian bank saying their account was rejected because a customer did not have a social insurance number, and a credit bureau report confirming potential fraud.

Wang Sheng also received instructions from his clients on what to do with entrusted funds if he was unable to contact them.

At one point, Osei seemed to wake up to some deals while brushing up on legal documents involving money laundering. He then called the bar association’s practice counsel about his client’s transaction concerns. However, Osei continued working for the client despite being advised not to.

According to the law association, Osei continued to allow clients to deposit and make payments of approximately $500,000 through his trust accounts, all the while doing little or no legal business.

“The respondent (Osei) effectively allowed the MP (the client) to use the respondent’s trust account as a bank account,” the panel noted.

“This conduct is markedly different from what the legal community expects lawyers to do,” the panel said.

The Panel took into account what it said was a mitigating factor.

Osei sought help from an advisor, while he continued his relationship with the client, the panel noted. The Panel also acknowledged Osei’s inexperience as a mitigating factor.

“Sanctions on such matters regulate the use of attorney trust accounts and strengthen the ability of the legal profession to prevent illegal transactions that are or may lead to money laundering. We need to make it credible,” the panel concluded.

“It is a mitigation for the defendant (Wang Sheng) to take responsibility and admit wrongdoing. [agreed statement of facts], which saves a lot of time and witness schedules. ”

The BC Money Laundering Commission of Inquiry Recommendation This includes limiting the use of trust funds, expanding the background check process, and improving the training and education of auditors and attorneys.

Attorneys are self-regulated throughout society, and in 2015 a groundbreaking law affirming that right was issued to preserve attorney-client privilege against government intervention, including laws aimed at curbing questionable transactions. Won a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The committee noted that the association has the ability to refer matters to law enforcement when there is evidence of a potential crime.

Osei disciplinary action can be found online.

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