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Clients push for quick access to funds of suspended probate lawyer

Former clients of suspended probate lawyer Robert Graham are pressing for the swift appointment of a bankruptcy trustee to collect his firm’s assets.

Their attorneys, led by Gerald Gordon, said in court documents Friday that “time is of the essence” to find misappropriated funds that could be hidden in financial institutions in several states.

Gordon and his firm filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Graham’s law practice late Thursday on behalf of the estate of Michael B. Macknin, the Sharona Dagani Trust and the Margueritte Owens Revocable Trust.

The three former clients contend Graham’s firm owes them a combined $1.9 million.

The State Bar of Nevada filed a complaint against Graham last week, alleging he stole millions of dollars from dozens of clients before abruptly closing the Lawyers West office in Summerlin on Dec. 2

Las Vegas police and the FBI are conducting a joint investigation into the disappearance of the funds.

In court papers, the Gordon firm said many of Graham’s clients had been counting on funds he was holding to pay for food, clothing, medical care and education for their children.

Graham, a prominent figure in the probate legal community, operated his law practice under three separate entities, including Lawyers West. He also once maintained offices in Utah and Colorado.

Attorney Lance Hendron, who represents Graham in the criminal investigation, has not returned phone calls about the forced bankruptcy. Neither has Graham.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this week, a shaken Graham described his law practice as a 20-year business failure.

Graham declined to explain what had happened to the missing client money in the interview and in a 22-page sworn affidavit he filed in a related court case involving the Macknin estate.

One of the estate’s lawyers called the affidavit a “rambling manifesto,” and the bankruptcy lawyers for the three former clients weren’t impressed with it, either.

Graham suggested in the affidavit that he transferred funds from his client trust accounts to pay his firm’s operating expenses or his own living costs, the attorneys said in court documents Friday.

They also argued that Graham appeared more concerned about protecting himself and the interests of his family than those of his clients.

“Read (as) a whole, the Graham affidavit contains generalized references to the acknowledgment of wrongdoing, but entirely lacks a tenor of contrition or genuine concern with unwinding any damage that can be unwound,” the lawyers wrote.

“Instead, the Graham affidavit is an aggressive and dangerous attempt to recast the damage done to his client victims as minor when compared to the damage others now seek to cause his family in their pursuit of his accountability.”

The bankruptcy case has been assigned to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bruce Beesley, who has set a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the trustee appointment.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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