Falmouth Attorney Faces Disbarment

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By: Brent Runyon
Published: 11/05/10

Falmouth real estate attorney Craig J. Martin resigned from the practice of law this week after an investigation into his dealings revealed at least $670,000 was missing from his escrow accounts for real estate transactions.

Mr. Martin, who lives on Madeline Road, East Falmouth, submitted an affidavit of resignation to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday, and is expected to be disbarred later this month.

“I am aware that there is presently an investigation and proceedings as to allegations that I have been guilty of misconduct,” Mr. Martin wrote in the affidavit.

The allegations include that Mr. Martin intentionally misappropriated real estate settlement funds over a period of time, and used funds from later closings to pay off mortgages or other obligations owed on earlier closings.

During real estate transactions, a lawyer transfers money into an escrow account, or IOLTA, which stands for interest on lawyers trust accounts. That money is later transferred out of the IOLTA account to pay off mortgages or the seller.

“The net result is that the current balance of my IOLTA accounts is not less than $670,000 short of the amount that should be on deposit, and that I do not have adequate funds available to pay off mortgages on at least two closings that have gone to record,” Mr. Martin wrote.

In the affidavit, Mr. Martin acknowledges that allegations against him can be proved by a preponderance of evidence, although he denies that he committed any criminal act.

“Mr. Martin has agreed to resign with the understanding that he will be disbarred,” said overseers board Chief Constance V. Vecchione.

“During real estate transactions there is usually some amount of money that is conveyed through the attorney to refinance or purchase a home or pay off a mortgage. In this instance, it didn’t happen, and in some number of cases there’s money that he should have that he doesn’t.”

Mr. Martin responded to an e-mail requesting an interview, but referred all questions to his attorney, James H. Fagan of Fagan and Goldrick in Taunton.

“At this point I’m not aware of any [criminal charges] but it’s not impossible,” Mr. Fagan said. He declined to comment on any specifics of the case.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts attorney general said she could not confirm or deny if there was a criminal investigation into Mr. Martin’s dealings.

Mr. Martin’s website lists eight banks that he is most familiar with including American Home and Mortgage Company, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Sovereign Bank, First Horizon Mortgage Company, Oak Financial Group, Stonehill Mortgage Corporation, Rockland Trust Company, and Bristol County Savings Bank.

Phone calls to Mr. Martin’s law offices on East Falmouth Highway and in Taunton on Wednesday were answered by a recorded message announcing that the law office had closed. Clients who need their original files were advised to e-mail Mr. Martin.

According to his website, Mr. Martin was born in Taunton, and grew up in the Taunton area. He graduated from Providence College in 1980 and obtained his juris doctorate degree from Suffolk University Law School in 1983 cum laude. He began practicing law in Taunton.

Mr. Martin opened a second office in Falmouth in 1997, and he and his family are now residents of East Falmouth.

Since moving to Cape Cod, Mr. Martin helped found Cape Cod Challenger Club Inc. to assist children with physical and mental disabilities in participating in athletic and social events on the Upper Cape. Mr. Martin wrote that he is also a current member of the Falmouth Rotary Club.

Mr. Martin is not to be confused with Craig A. Martin of Sandwich Road, East Falmouth, who is active in local politics.

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