Two Salt Lake attorneys accused of securities fraud and illegal financial dealings pleaded guilty to reduced charges Thursday.
Lynn Charles Spafford, 42, pleaded guilty to unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary, a second-degree felony, and his father, Earl S. Spafford, 71, entered a no contest plea to unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary, a third-degree felony.Both men had been charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary and securities fraud, second-degree felonies. Lynn Spafford had also been charged with two counts of communication fraud, a second-degree felony.
As part of the plea agreements, prosecutors will request that the father-son duo pay restitution to all potential victims, which include at least 25 people, said assistant attorney general Steven Morrissett.
Prosecutors, however, allowed some leniency for the elder Spafford. His plea will be held in abeyance and the charges stricken from his record at the completion of probation.
"He was charged because he was aware of what was happening, but he was not accused of actually taking the money," Morrissett said. However, "he's also obligated to pay restitution to those people as a condition of his probation.
"As long as somebody pays (the victims), then (Earl Spafford) can be released from his conviction. If they don't get paid, then his conviction will stand."
The Spaffords were charged in March by the Utah Attorney General's Office following a history of financial and legal problems.
Earl Spafford, a defense and personal injury attorney, was ordered to stop practicing law in October 1996 by a 3rd District judge after the Utah Bar Association accused him of mishandling more than $280,000 in client funds.
Among other things, money that should have gone to clients for personal injury settlements instead went to pay the firm's operating expenses and salaries, according to charges by the bar association.
Lynn Spafford resigned from the bar, voluntarily giving up his law license, in April 1995 facing similar allegations and complaints from clients.
A complaint filed by the bar alleged Lynn Spafford "converted client money to his own use and benefit in an amount the Office of Attorney Discipline believes exceeds the sum of $200,000."
Some of that money, according to the bar's investigation, was diverted from the law firm to a nightclub that Lynn Spafford tried unsuccessfully to get up and running in 1992-93.
The securities fraud charge alleges that between Feb. 15, 1993, and March 18, 1994, the two men defrauded a woman and her two children out of $50,000.
The three fiduciary charges allege that in March, April and May of 1994 the two mishandled client funds of more than $5,000 in each case.
The two communications fraud charges against Lynn Spafford allege that in early 1994 he defrauded two clients out of more than $5,000 each. At least 19 other similar victims have surfaced that were not named in the charges, Morrissett said.
Both men are scheduled for sentencing Nov. 3 before Judge Anthony Quinn.