HAMILTON — A North Shore lawyer has been suspended from practicing law and is facing possible criminal charges amid questions about missing client funds, including a settlement for a Hamilton teen struck by a car two years ago.
Mark E. Cassidy, who once had law offices in Peabody and Newburyport, has been accused in a “petition for discipline” of pocketing nearly $375,000 owed to clients, including a teenage girl in Hamilton who was seriously injured when she was struck by a car two years ago.
The girl’s father, Joe Frackleton, said Cassidy owes his family more than $20,000 from the settlement for his daughter Glorie, who was crossing the street near the Salem MBTA station in December 2010 when she was hit. She suffered a broken pelvis and was on crutches for six weeks during her senior year of high school.
Cassidy agreed to take their case in exchange for one-third of the final settlement, Frackleton said, but never turned over any of the settlement money. For months, Frackleton said, Cassidy told the family that he could not release the settlement funds because the family’s medical insurance company, Aetna, had placed a lien on the money.
But as time passed and Cassidy became harder and harder to reach, they contacted Aetna themselves — and discovered that there had never been a lien against the settlement funds, Frackleton said.
That’s when they contacted the Board of Bar Overseers, which regulates attorneys in Massachusetts.
It turns out the Frackletons weren’t alone.
Another family went to the BBO last July, after discovering that Cassidy had written 41 checks totaling just under $348,000 from an escrow account set up to handle the estate of a Peabody man named Clarence “Glen” Nadeau, according to the complaint.
Nadeau’s estate was worth more than twice that amount, more than $767,000, when he died in 2007. Cassidy paid some expenses and disbursed about $400,000 to various heirs, part of the money they were due. What they didn’t know is that starting in the spring of 2009, Cassidy began writing checks from that escrow account to himself, according to the petition.
A third person who paid Cassidy a $5,000 retainer for his divorce proceedings, only to have him do no work on his case, filed a complaint in September, after Cassidy canceled a planned meeting.
The bar counsel later discovered that Cassidy had just $991 in his law firm’s business account before he deposited the $5,000 retainer check last June; by July 3, his balance was down to less than $500, leading investigators to conclude that he had used the money for other purposes.
The Frackletons said they managed to confront Cassidy in his Newburyport office just after Christmas.
“He actually came out and met us,” said Joseph Frackleton, who said he was surprised.
“If I could fix everything, I would,’” Frackleton quoted Cassidy as telling him. But they still haven’t seen a dime.
John Burke, Cassidy’s lawyer, said Cassidy is “devastated” by the situation and “the impact it has had on those clients and the ones he can no longer represent. He’s extremely remorseful and extremely sorry. He feels badly for the people he represented.”
Burke declined to go into what may have led to the misuse of funds.
According to the bar counsel’s petition, Cassidy failed to attend a meeting last month where he’d been asked to bring documents requested by the bar counsel. Burke said that was largely due to concerns about the pending criminal investigation.
The suspension was imposed pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings; Cassidy could face a range of sanctions, including permanent disbarment. No hearings have been scheduled in the case yet.
The Frackletons have also contacted law enforcement. Police in Hamilton referred them to the Essex County district attorney, who asked prosecutors in Worcester County to handle the matter, because Cassidy worked as an assistant district attorney in Essex County from 1992 until 1994.
The Frackletons said they are frustrated at the pace of that investigation.
Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joe Early, said he understands the family’s frustration but that the investigation into Cassidy hasn’t been concluded, and because of that, no charges have been filed at this point.
“We’re working on it,” Jarvey said.
“Mark’s prepared to deal with whatever the criminal courts decide to do,” Burke said.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.