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New accusations surface in ex-lawyer's case

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office is investigating additional complaints against Richard Joseph Da Fonte, 50, a Clearwater lawyer who was disbarred last fall and was recently charged with stealing $400,000 from a client.

A somber Da Fonte attended a pretrial hearing Monday, during which the possibility of additional charges was discussed with the court and his attorney. Another court appearance was scheduled for June 3.

Meanwhile, more of his former clients are talking to investigators about money they say Da Fonte stole from them. On Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson said he hopes to complete his investigation within a couple of weeks.

Da Fonte is charged with stealing $400,000 from Kenneth Yang of Texas, one of three family members he represented in a real estate transaction in late October. On Feb. 2, Da Fonte turned himself in at the Pinellas County Jail to be booked on the grand-theft charge. He has pleaded not guilty.

Among his accusers are Pinellas Park resident Sharon Dore, who claims Da Fonte owes her and others more than $110,000 from the estate of her late mother, June Barry. Da Fonte was supposed to turn over the money after the sale of property.

St. Petersburg resident Shakawat Hossain, 46, a refugee from Bangladesh, said he is owed about $235,000 that Da Fonte held in trust for him. He and his family are devastated by the loss, Hossain said, because the money was to be used to buy a business in Gulfport.

"My situation is real bad,'' he said, adding that his family is in danger of losing their home.

Besides not being able to keep up his day-to-day expenses, there's the matter of his 18-year-old daughter's college education. Mariam Tasnim, who is his eldest child, will graduate in June.

"She wanted to go to the prom in a limo with her friends, but I can't afford it. She wanted to buy a good dress, but I can't afford it,'' he said.

"She will go to the prom. We'll try to do as much as we can, because it's the first time our family is having a graduation.''

Hossain has filed a complaint with the Florida Bar and is seeking compensation from its victims' compensation fund.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

New accusations surface in ex-lawyer's case 04/29/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 3:19pm]
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