Client sues his attorney Drug suspect alleges malpractice

April 25, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A Perryville man indicted on drug charges is suing a jailed Bel Air lawyer, claiming malpractice, fraud and deceit because the attorney never revealed his own impending prison sentence for a federal income tax evasion conviction.

Earl D. Creswell alleges in the $6.5 million suit filed this month in Harford Circuit Court that the attorney, Lester V. Jones, demanded $25,000 to represent him shortly after his Port Deposit home, two vehicles, a boat and $235,000 were seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS, and state and Cecil County law enforcement agencies in September 1990.

Mr. Creswell was indicted last week on charges that he avoided paying more than $181,000 in federal income taxes. He was charged in a five-count indictment with filing false income tax returns from 1986 through 1990, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mr. Jones, the suit says, assured Mr. Creswell that he would help retrieve the property and money.

Eventually, Mr. Jones advised Mr. Creswell to agree to a settlement in which half the cash, both vehicles and the boat would be returned.

After agreeing, the suit contends, the IRS seized the property Mr. Creswell expected to get back.

Mr. Creswell was indicted by a Cecil County grand jury on May 19, 1992. The indictment, later sealed, charged him under Maryland's drug kingpin statute with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. He has not been brought to trial.

Mr. Jones was awaiting the outcome of the appeal of his own conviction on April 22, 1992.

Mr. Jones was not sentenced until Sept. 25. Mr. Creswell contends Mr. Jones had many chances to tell him that he might not be able to provide adequate representation if he lost the appeal and was sent to jail.

The suit also contends Mr. Jones demanded an extra $60,000 to represent Mr. Creswell, his wife, Shirley, and Francis Culotta, named co-conspirators in the Cecil indictment.

Mrs. Creswell, who then was involved in divorce proceedings, and Mr. Culotta never were represented by Mr. Jones, the suit claims. Mr. Creswell claims that in June 1992 he learned that his wife had agreed before the May indictment to testify against him in return for immunity.

Mr. Creswell contends Mr. Jones knew or should have known that fact. And that, Mr. Creswell's suit says, coupled with his learning of Mr. Jones' legal problems, is why he fired the lawyer on June 29, 1992 and demanded the return of his $60,000 retainer.

The suit further alleges that Mr. Jones had agreed to return $29,000, but has repaid only $10,000.

In alleging a breach of contract, Mr. Creswell is seeking $550,000 in damages. He is seeking $2 million in malpractice damages, accusing Mr. Jones of failing to advise him properly on retrieving his property and of a conflict of interest in agreeing to represent ,, Mrs. Creswell, who was testifying before a grand jury against his best interests.

Mr. Creswell also is seeking $1 million for negligent misrepresentation, claiming Mr. Jones should have told him of Mr. Jones' impending prison sentence. On claims of fraud and deceit, Mr. Creswell is seeking $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Mr. Jones, a former Baltimore County prosecutor and state delegate, has 60 days to respond.

He could not be reached for comment.

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