San Jose attorney disbarred for misappropriating client funds

By Olivia Olsen | May 12, 2017

LOS ANGELES — The State Bar Court of California recently disbarred Tam Nguyen, a San Jose attorney, for misappropriating client funds.

According to the March 1 order, Nguyen was hired Aug. 6, 2012, to represent a man and his minor son in a personal injury suit following a vehicular accident the same day. The client agreed to pay the attorney 33 percent of the funds received in the settlement.

The attorney advised his clients to seek medical care from a chiropractor, instructions that they heeded almost immediately. The chiropractor then billed Nguyen a total of $5,078. The attorney then billed his client’s insurance company, Mercury Insurance, and two checks were issued to Nguyen for the $5,078. The attorney received the checks but failed to notify his client, instead issuing himself a check for the full amount.

In August 2013, a settlement was made with Farmers Insurance for $6,700. Of that amount, the client was entitled to $4,600 and his son $2,100. Nguyen then presented the client with a distribution of the funds detailing that the attorney would receive $2,133 and that the chiropractor would be paid $2,233. He did not inform the client of the previous payment. After receiving the two settlement checks, Nguyen wrote a check to himself for the attorney fees and another check for the chiropractor fees. The chiropractor was not paid until the following year, according to court documents.

The client received a letter from his insurance provider in October 2013 requesting repayment of the medical funds they had issued. The client immediately contacted Nguyen as he had no knowledge of the funds up to that point. A complaint was filed against Nguyen by the client. The attorney then paid him nearly $5,000 from his client trust.

Due to the deliberate nature of the misconduct and the display of moral turpitude, the California State Bar recommended and upheld an order for disbarment. 

Nguyen had served as a member of the California State Bar since 1992. He is a graduate of the Lincoln Law School in San Jose and was previously suspended in 2004 for misappropriating client funds. 

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