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I-Team: Is There Sufficient Protection From Lawyers?

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV I-Team
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Lawyers handle our most sensitive matters, often involving our financial security and even life savings. The consequences can be devastating when that trust is violated.

Christine Musculus knows those consequences all too well after selling her home in West Roxbury.

Robert Monheimber, a lawyer and family friend, handled the closing and allegedly has kept $75,000 that he owes to Musculus.

“Right now, honestly, I would like to rip his throat out. He took a lot of money from my family,” Musculus said.

Musculus claims that now Monheimer won’t respond to emails or phone calls, and that she can’t find him in order to settle the matter.

After running an errand at the U.S. Post Office in Framingham, WBZ-TV’s I-Team was able to catch up with Monheimer.

When asked about Musculus’ claims, he quickly responded that they weren’t true before jumping in his car and driving way.

So are there enough safeguards in place to protect people from a bad lawyer?

David Frank is the Managing Editor of Mass Lawyers Weekly. He says yes.

“Unfortunately the reality of life, whether it is the legal world or outside the legal world, is that people are going to do bad things,” Frank said.

The I-Team checked the numbers and found that overall complaints filed against lawyers have actually dipped slightly in recent years, but there is one area of growing concern.

“Lawyers are being accused of breaking the rules when they are handling real estate closings and 2012 really did see a spike in the number of cases,” Frank added.

Musculus’ case fits that category, but she’s also one of the lucky ones. Her case made it to the Client Security Board which was created by the Supreme Judicial Court.

This organization collects fees from the state’s 57,000 attorneys and uses some of those funds to make victims of fraud feel whole again.

Michelle Porter over sees the Client Security Board. She says the board’s job takes time and requires research and fact checking.

“We have to make sure that we investigate that claim thoroughly, understand the full facts, make sure that there was a theft and understand the amount of the theft,” she said.

But try telling that to Musculus. She claims that while Porter and the CSB investigates, she’ll have to go three years without the money owed to her, and without a place to call home.

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