An Edmonds lawyer is the focus of a widening investigation into allegations that she pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to clients.
Theresa Michelle Sowinski, 35, is charged in Snohomish County Superior Court with one count of first-degree theft, a felony.
Prosecutors allege that in June 2004 she transferred into her personal account thousands of dollars that a client won in a property dispute settlement. Sowinski has pleaded not guilty and faces a Sept. 8 trial.
On Wednesday, Edmonds police detectives received a judge’s permission to seize financial records involving Sowinski’s role in another former client’s June 2005 real estate deal.
The woman, from south Snohomish County, told police that Sowinski took control of cash she made selling property and that the lawyer still has $248,000, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Superior court.
The woman repeatedly asked Sowinski for the cash. She told police “that (Sowinski’s) e-mails and phone calls over the last year promised that the money would be returned to her, but she never received it,” Edmonds police detective Steve Morrison said in a sworn affidavit.
When the detective in late May checked the lawyer’s trust account – the place where attorneys commonly put client funds for safe-keeping – he learned the balance was just $91.
“It is unknown whether the funds in the account have been transferred to another account somewhere else, or have been spent on other items that did not benefit” the south county woman, Morrison said in court papers.
Morrison asked the court’s permission to review Sowinski’s bank records and an escrow company that was involved in the June 2005 land deal in an attempt to determine what happened to the money the woman said she is owed.
Sowinski is represented in the criminal case by Everett attorney Royce Ferguson. He had no comment on the detective’s search.
Morrison last week said he has heard from other former Sowinski clients.
Some people have shared concerns about how the lawyer handled their cases, not their cash, he said. Issues related to an attorney’s legal representation are better brought to the attention of the Washington State Bar Association, not police, Morrison said.
He’s focusing attention solely on potential theft.
“If there have been allegations of funds being stolen from them, which is what these other cases are, I’d like to hear about it,” he said.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.