Father Fighting For Custody Says Lawyer Took Money And Skipped Town

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Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A dad fighting for custody paid a lawyer $5,000, and now he can’t find his attorney.

“Takes it all, and he’s got all my documentation, I’ve got nothing left,” said Tom Schmidt.

Schmidt says he was scammed, and that the Sacramento lawyer bailed not only on him, but on his other clients and his office lease.

His lawyer Bryan Smith wasn’t at his last-known address. The woman behind the door told our CBS13 cameras that we were looking in the wrong place.

“I hired him to represent me and he ran off with my money, disappeared,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt claims he was scammed out of $5,000 by the lawyer who he says skipped town with his money, without ever working on his custody case.

“Nothing filed, nothing done and all my documents, gone,” said Schmidt.

All he has now is Smith’s business card. Smith is a licensed attorney who used to have an office on the fourth floor in a building near Highway 50 and Watt Avenue.

The front desk receptionist said the lawyer abruptly stopped showing up in October and they haven’t been able to reach him since.

“Property manager there said he’d disappeared, owing him money as well, and other clients looking for him,” said Schmidt.

It’s not the first time Smith’s had unhappy clients.

CBS13 obtained documents showing the state bar put Smith on probation, and sent him to ethics school back in 2007.

The bar found he took money from a client only to ignore their messages, make mistakes on paperwork, and refuse to refund their money, until months after he was ordered to refund the money.

“There’s 500 attorneys in Sacramento, and I happen to pick a crook,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt isn’t waiting around any longer. He filed a police report. He’d like to hire a new lawyer, but he currently doesn’t have the money.

“Hopefully they catch the sucker before I do,” said Schmidt.

After the 2007 incident, the state bar warned Smith if he did it again, he could face harsher penalties. Now another one of his clients is accusing him of taking money, but not performing the legal work.

CBS13 tried contacting Smith for comment, but he didn’t return our messages.

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