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Lawyer accused of misusing funds

The State Bar of Nevada filed a 16-count complaint Wednesday that accuses Las Vegas lawyer Jeanne Winkler, who was suspended a year ago, of misappropriating nearly $150,000.

According to the complaint, which asks the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board to take appropriate action, the misappropriation affected 56 clients. Winkler practiced primarily in Family Court.

An attempt to reach Winkler through her attorney, Michael Warhola, for comment late Wednesday was not successful.

The Nevada Supreme Court suspended Winkler in March 2008 pending the resolution of formal disciplinary proceedings. The Bar had filed an emergency petition requesting the suspension.

Winkler, 41, had submitted an affidavit to the Bar in which she admitted that she had misappropriated money from her attorney-client trust account from early 2007 through January 2008.

“As of January 27, 2008, my trust account balance should have been $216,167.05, but there was only approximately $3,000 in the account at that time,” Winkler wrote.

According to the affidavit, Winkler transferred money from her trust account to fund an investment and to pay for “ongoing expenses” related to her firm, such as payroll checks, utilities and rent.

Phil Pattee, assistant Bar counsel, said Bar officials have spent the past year “trying to figure out where all the money went.”

In April, the district attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint that accused Winkler of bouncing four checks. The felony case was dismissed in September after she paid about $7,000 in restitution.

Attorney Louis Schneider, who was listed as a victim in Winkler’s bad-check case, said he and attorney Tracey Itts contacted the Bar in December 2007 after they found a letter on the copy machine at Winkler’s law offices. The letter had been sent from the Bar to Winkler and asked her to explain why her trust account was overdrawn.

Schneider joined Winkler’s firm in September 2007 and said he was poised to become her partner on Jan. 1, 2008.

According to the Bar complaint, Schneider and Itts “informed the State Bar that they were concerned about the retainers they had given (Winkler) in the approximate amount of $80,000 to hold in the attorney-client trust account.”

Pattee said Winkler has 20 days to file a response to the Bar complaint. A formal hearing then will be scheduled.

Schneider said Las Vegas police detectives recently interviewed him about Winkler.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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