Crime

University Place lawyer charged with theft for allegedly stealing client’s settlement check

A University Place attorney has been charged with first-degree theft and had his license suspended after allegedly stealing a client’s $21,000 settlement check.

No arraignment has been scheduled for Donald Mansfield, 71. Investigators said they aren’t sure where he is. He closed his law office and his home was foreclosed on in March, court records show.

One of Mansfield’s clients filed a complaint with the Washington State Bar Association and Tacoma police after trying in vain to claim from Mansfield money he was awarded in a personal injury case.

The $21,000 settlement check was deposited into Mansfield’s account on Sept. 12, 2011, and the attorney promised to send it to his client within 10 days, according to charging papers.

No check ever came.

The client emailed Mansfield’s office at least five times and sent a certified letter demanding his money.

As part of the fee agreement, Mansfield was entitled to $7,000 and his client was owed $14,000.

The state bar association conducted an audit and determined Mansfield received the settlement check but never paid his client. It also showed the attorney moved thousands of dollars from his work account to his private account, records indicate.

The audit showed Mansfield “either used or converted the victim’s settlement funds for his own use.”

During the audit, Mansfield allegedly said he had “serious and ongoing” health problems that prevented him from responding to the accusations but never sent the auditor medical records.

Mansfield has been licensed as a lawyer since 1976. His license is now suspended.

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