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Lawyer accused of using deceased client's account

ST. PETE BEACH — Marvin L. Stull was Mary Larson's lawyer and friend, but in April, just weeks after she died at 94, he made several unauthorized cash withdrawals from her bank account.

Some were at ATMs at Publix, others at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, another at Home Depot. They totaled $2,943.31, according to a police report.

Larson's niece, Martha Johnson, the only person besides Stull with authority in Larson's will, noticed discrepancies in her aunt's account and called police.

But Larson's case was not the only problem for the lawyer.

Stull was arrested on June 25 after Pinellas Circuit Judge Lauren C. Laughlin ordered a bench warrant for his arrest. According to court records, Laughlin found Stull in criminal contempt of court after he failed to appear in court to file papers concerning five other estates. He pleaded no contest and was sent to the Pinellas County jail.

While behind bars for those offenses, Stull was charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, to which he pleaded not guilty.

He spent 13 days in the jail before being sent to Windmoor Healthcare, a psychiatric hospital that offers substance abuse counseling.

In an interview with a lawyer from the Florida Bar Association before his arrest, Stull admitted that he was having trouble handling cases, responding to clients and keeping files in order. He admitted making withdrawals on Larson's account, and also said he had a problem with alcohol.

"Well, I've just — I've had some focus problems, and I've been discombobulated as far as records and what I've been doing and those kind of things," said Stull, 61.

Stull told Bar attorney Karen Lopez that he may have moved thousands of dollars between clients' accounts and once forgot to pick up a client he'd dropped off at an appointment.

Stull's law license was suspended on July 13 by the Florida Supreme Court.

For his professional and drinking problems, Stull told Lopez that he was ready to get help.

This was not Stull's first trouble with alcohol. In April 2003, according to court records, Stull was involved in a car accident in which he was not found at fault. But in the aftermath, an officer noticed that his speech was slurred, his walk was wobbly and alcohol was on his breath.

Stull was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated and pleaded no contest. He was sentenced to DUI school and fined $528. Four months later, his probation was terminated two months ahead of schedule.

Stull's attorney, Sean K. McQuaid of St. Petersburg, said Stull is continuing with rehabilitative treatment but otherwise declined to comment.

One of Mary Larson's relatives, John Acree of St. Pete Beach, said he didn't know anything was amiss with Stull's handling of his aunt's estate.

"They were pretty close. He was here just about every day to visit with her," said Acree, 80.

The two men developed their own friendship because Stull often visited Larson.

"When my eyes went bad," added Acree, "he used to take me to the doctor."

Meanwhile, Stull was ordered to stop handling cases, submit all of his case files to the Bar for review and await the results of an investigation.

Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Luis Perez can be reached at lperez@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2271.

Lawyer accused of using deceased client's account 08/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 4:31am]
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