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Man trying to recoup $150K after Las Vegas lawyer charged with theft

James Wilson says he trusted his Las Vegas attorney, Scott Michael Cantor, to properly handle the details of his late mother’s estate in probate court.

Wilson, 51, is a retired North Las Vegas corrections sergeant who now lives in Washington. His mother, Charley Janet Wilson, died in Las Vegas in 2010, and her home in Centennial Hills was sold a year later. The proceeds were placed in a trust account at Cantor’s law firm as the family’s complex probate case dragged on for a decade.

“I thought the money was as safe as Fort Knox in a trust account,” Wilson said. “Just by the name alone, it’s called trust.”

But when the probate case finally resolved in 2020, Wilson reached out to his attorney to get his portion of his inheritance valued at roughly $150,000. What followed from Cantor, Wilson said, was excuse after excuse.

“There were numerous times when I did call him and told him, ‘Hurry up and get this done,’” Wilson said. But the money never came.

Las Vegas police and Clark County prosecutors now say the reason Wilson never got paid is because Cantor, 69, stole the money. The attorney was arrested in October and is facing trial on a felony count of attempted theft.

Cantor’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show that Cantor was previously disciplined by the Nevada Supreme Court for violating rules of professional conduct in legal cases dating back decades. Those same records also show he was disbarred by the state of California in March, and that the State Bar of Nevada is now seeking to revoke Cantor’s law license as well.

“The way I see it, Scott stole my mother’s house … That was money I could have sent my kids to college with,” Wilson said. “That’s what my mom wanted to see.”

At least four prior complaints

Cantor was admitted to practice law in both Nevada and California in 1978. In 1990, he received a private reprimand from the Nevada bar because Cantor “temporarily misplaced two casino chips entrusted to him by a client in 1983,” according to bar records.

In 2014, the Nevada bar initiated disciplinary proceedings against Cantor stemming from complaints in three other cases.

The first stemmed from a 2005 case in which Cantor failed to obey a court order requiring prompt disbursement of settlement monies on behalf of a client who had received a pre-settlement advance loan in a civil case.

In the second case, a woman said she hired Cantor as a divorce attorney and paid him more than $1,000, but she ultimately had to perform her own legal filings after she said Cantor didn’t do what he said he was going to do. The Nevada bar said Cantor failed to file the woman’s parenting certificates and waited a year to file a joint petition. He also failed to inform his client of significant legal developments, the Nevada bar said.

In another complaint, Cantor was hired to handle a probate case of a woman who died in 2008. The Nevada bar said he acted as an administrator for the estate without approval from the probate court and ended up receiving illegal fees in the case. He also failed to perform legal services by filing accounting documents.

Discipline in Nevada, California

The filings with the Nevada Supreme Court indicate Cantor entered into a conditional plea with the state bar over the three complaints, acknowledging that he violated rules of professional conduct.

As a result of the plea, in September 2015, the Nevada Supreme Court approved a stayed six-month suspension of Cantor’s law license and a year’s probation with the Nevada bar. He was also appointed a mentor by the bar to help him get back on track.

However, a short time later, the mentor — a Las Vegas attorney — reported back to the bar “that he had concerns with Cantor’s handling of trust funds,” according to bar filings, and that “Cantor admitted to a shortfall” of $37,000 in a trust account.

As a result, in November 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court signed off on a Nevada bar recommendation extending Cantor’s stayed law license suspension to three years. An audit of his trust fund account was ordered along with a repayment of any deficiencies.

Cantor was also required to use an accounting and case management system, and provide quarterly reports on his progress.

The Nevada discipline then triggered the California state bar to initiate its own disciplinary proceedings against Cantor. Cantor was disbarred in California in March for repeatedly failing to meet requirements imposed on him.

The Nevada bar, in its November petition, said Cantor also never informed them that he had been disbarred in California, even though he was required to do so, and that the loss of his license in California was only discovered as the Nevada bar investigated “another matter” regarding Cantor. The filings don’t provide details on what the Nevada bar is investigating.

Waiting for a check

Wilson said in 2020 that he became increasingly frustrated with Cantor’s chronic excuses as to why he had not transferred Wilson’s mother’s inheritance to him. A series of exchanges in fall 2020 left him convinced that something was seriously wrong.

“I told Scott, ‘I want to see the money in my account,’” Wilson said. “He said, ‘I’ll have the money in your account. I’ll go over and do a wire transfer at Nevada State Bank.’”

Later that day, Wilson said Cantor told him he couldn’t make the wire transfer because the bank had closed at 2 p.m.

“I was like, ‘A bank closes at 2 p.m.?’” Wilson said.

In the following days, Cantor told him the money was, in fact, sent to him via wire transfer.

“He sent me a picture of this letter,” Wilson said. “It says wire transfer. It had the amount on there, but it didn’t hit my bank. Then I started looking at this letter and the type print was off. The lines were crooked.”

Wilson said he sent the picture of the letter to several friends who are retired cops, and they all told him “that looks hinky,” Wilson recalled.

Wilson then filed a complaint with Las Vegas police last January. Detectives wrote in an arrest report for Cantor that they learned the attorney also told Wilson he needed to audit his trust account.

“After Mr. Cantor’s audit, he told (Wilson) that there was only $200 in his trust account,” police said. “Mr. Cantor told (Wilson) that he would make good on the funds, but never paid.”

Wilson said Cantor offered him mining contracts as reimbursement, but he still never got any money. Wilson is hoping he will one day be reimbursed for the loss through court proceedings or possibly by the Nevada bar.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Wilson said.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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