Jerry Alonzo Stevenson, 43, San Diego, California, State Bar #262798, was disbarred for accepting advance fees for loan modification matters in violation of Civil Code § 2944.7(a), failing to competently perform legal services, and failing to promptly refund advanced fees.
Between March and September 2011 several individuals hired Stevenson to negotiate plans with their mortgage lenders or creditors to restructure their home loan payments. All of the clients learned about Stevenson’s services from unsolicited direct mail sent to their homes. The letters contained personal information regarding the clients and their lender or bank, and they appeared to be generated with the lender’s authorization. Stevenson’s representative told the clients that their loan modifications would be personally handled by him and guaranteed that he would successfully complete the restructuring. However, after the clients paid advance attorney’s fees, Stevenson did not complete the loan modification services.
In addition, Stevenson engaged in a business partnership with his office manager, a nonattorney with whom he shared legal fees. Stevenson delegated to the manager the tasks of accepting legal services, providing legal advice, supervising nonattorneys, and depositing client fees into joint accounts. Furthermore, Stevenson did not properly supervise his nonattorney staff and was only occasionally present at any of the law firm offices.
In each of the cases, Stevenson’s staff falsely told the clients that the loan modifications were in the process of being approved. In addition, Stevenson failed to respond to the clients’ reasonable status inquiries. All of the clients tried to obtain refunds, but Stevenson failed to return the advanced fees.
In aggravation, Stevenson had a record of prior discipline. Furthermore, his clients were seriously harmed, and he engaged in multiple acts of wrongdoing that demonstrated a pattern of misconduct.
In mitigation, he cooperated with the State Bar by entering into a stipulation. The order took effect May 10, 2013