A Salt Lake attorney has been charged with taking $75,700 of $82,460 in out-of-court settlement payments intended for his client.
A. Paul Schwenke, 37, 967 E. 48th South, was charged in 3rd Circuit Court with second-degree felony theft.According to a probable cause statement, Schwenke, on behalf of client Caren Serr, made an out-of-court settlement of $92,943 in a personal injury suit in September 1985. Schwenke did not receive all of the payments.
In the agreement with Colonial Penn Insurance Co. and Western Fire Insurance Co., insurers of the party that Serr sued, Schwenke agreed to set up a annuity fund that would pay $250 a month to Serr for life as well as pay medical expenses. Schwenke told Serr he had set up the annuity with Prudential Insurance. But Schwenke actually maintained control, documents say.
During this time Schwenke paid his client only a part of the settlements. While he was entitled to $26,000 of the settlement for payment of his legal services, he kept almost three times that amount, the statement says.
On one occasion, the document says, Schwenke received payments from the insurance company and then deposited them by forging Serr's signature. He also took a $27,847 payment intended for Serr and opened a $28,000 certificate of deposit account at First Security Bank, records say.
He then took out a $28,000 loan against the CD at First Security Bank, placing $20,000 in his law firm's account, converting $7,000 to cash and opening a $1,000 trust account. The bank later applied the CD to loan, because he failed to make payments, court records say.