By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A recently disbarred Lynnwood attorney is expected in court next week to answer to felony charges stemming from allegations that he stole from a client and forged the woman’s signature in an attempt to hide the theft.
Stephen L. Conroy practiced law for 40 years before he was disbarred in late July. Now, Snohomish County prosecutors have charged Conroy, 65, with second-degree theft and forgery.
Conroy’s legal practices first came under scrutiny in 2010 when a former client filed a complaint with the Washington State Bar Association. She alleged that Conroy lied about how much money she was owed as part of a civil lawsuit settlement.
She hired Conroy after being involved in a car accident. He filed a lawsuit on the woman’s behalf and negotiated a $25,000 settlement. The woman didn’t receive the money directly.
Instead, it was deposited in Conroy’s trust in order to pay back the insurance companies that had covered costs associated with the crash. Conroy told the woman the entire $25,000 went to pay bills, including his fees.
The woman later was attempting to get receipts for tax purposes when she discovered that Conroy reportedly had overstated the amount of the insurance bills. She also alleged that Conroy forged her signature on a fee agreement.
The woman said she agreed to pay Conroy $5,000 for his services. Bank records show that Conroy pocketed more than $11,000, according to prosecutors.
The bar launched an investigation. Conroy reportedly turned over his files on the case, including memos he alleged were signed by the client. The woman later denied signing the paperwork. A handwriting expert was hired and concluded that the woman’s signatures on a fee agreement and a memo had been forged.
Conroy denied the allegations during the bar’s investigation.
He argued that the client agreed to pay him more for his work.
“She agreed that since I did significant extra work on her case that I should be compensated for my time and assistance,” he wrote.
He also claimed that the woman tampered with the case file and that original documents had been removed. Conroy blamed her for the documents being altered.
“His testimony appears inconsistent at times and at odds with other evidence in the case, so much so, that the hearing examiner concluded that some of his testimony was not credible,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor David Hiltner wrote in charging papers filed in Superior Court.
A disciplinary board found that Conroy violated several rules of professional conduct. It recommended that he be disbarred. The state Supreme Court yanked his license in late July.
Meanwhile, Lynnwood police detectives forwarded the criminal investigation to prosecutors.
Conroy has no prior criminal history.
He was a longtime municipal court judge in Edmonds and Lynnwood until 1999. That’s when he agreed to resign after the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission found evidence that he’d acted inappropriately from the bench. The commission concluded that he provided false and misleading statement to investigators.
The resignation came after Conroy dismissed, without a legal basis, a traffic citation for a woman he had dated.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.