Bereano loses D.C. license to practice law Fraud conviction leads to action against lobbyist

November 07, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

State House lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano has been stripped of his license to practice law in the nation's capital now that a federal appeals court has upheld his 1994 mail-fraud conviction.

Although the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has disbarred Bereano, he has not been disciplined in Maryland, and is permitted to practice law in the state.

The District of Columbia's Court of Appeals disbarred Bereano in an Oct. 29 order that surfaced publicly yesterday.

Bereano, 53, of Annapolis did not respond to telephone messages yesterday, and a Baltimore attorney representing him, Albert Figinksi, said he had no comment on the disbarment.

Washington and Maryland use different procedures to discipline attorneys.

"In the district, if you are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, you have to be disbarred," said Michael S. Frisch, a senior prosecutor of attorneys for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. "There is no discretion. Disbarment is mandatory."

Frisch said crimes involving fraud fall into that category.

Bereano's license to practice law in Washington was suspended shortly after his 1994 conviction, pending the outcome of his appeals. The disbarment order follows an Aug. 28 federal appeals court ruling that upheld his conviction.

Maryland gives reprieve

Bereano argued in 1995 before the Maryland Court of Appeals that he should be allowed to continue practicing law in the state while appealing his conviction, and the court ruled in his favor.

That allowed him to keep prac- ticing law while pursuing appeals that stretched over four years.

Melvin Hirshman, chief disciplinary counsel for Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission, said confidentiality rules prohibit him from saying whether any action is being considered against Bereano in Maryland.

Hirshman said a Maryland attorney who has been disciplined in another jurisdiction often faces similar sanctions in Maryland.

The first step is for a review board of 15 attorneys and three members of the public to review the matter and direct that "public charges" be filed against the attorney, Hirshman said.

The case then goes to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which assigns a circuit judge to make "findings of facts and conclusions of law" after a nonjury trial.

The case is then sent back to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which decides on sanctions.

Bad bills cause charges

Bereano was convicted by a federal jury in Baltimore in 1994 on seven counts of mail fraud.

Prosecutors said he billed four clients for fictitious entertainment expenses, using the money to make illegal campaign contributions.

On Aug. 28, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., rejected his appeal and ordered the case sent back to U.S. District Judge William Nickerson in Baltimore for a new sentencing hearing.

Bereano's attorneys have asked the appellate court to stay its order for his resentencing while they seek a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. The appellate court has not ruled on that request. If the appellate court rejects the request for a stay, Bereano will have to appear before Nickerson for new sentencing.

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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