A Miami lawyer ‘misappropriated’ $50,400 that should’ve gone to a member of her church

Three years after a $100,000 personal injury settlement hit a North Miami Beach attorney’s trust account, her client had received, at most, under $10,000. Other people and entities, including a church, had received $50,400.

That’s part of why Adres Jackson-Whyte has been disbarred. Destroying records that had been subpoenaed also counts as a major no-no, but that happened during an investigation of the “misappropriated” funds.

“At some point she had to know that she was making disbursements to people for whom she had not deposited funds,” Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge Michelle Alvarez Barakat wrote in her referee’s report. “In fact, her own testimony as to the two significant disbursements to the church reflects that she was aware of this. Certainly, if those funds were not deposited, [Jackson-Whyte] had to realize she was giving Leroy Moore’s money to someone else.”

Leroy Moore was Jackson-Whyte’s client and a member of the same church as the attorney. Jackson-Whyte testified to the referee that a car smashed into Moore as he sat on a bus bench.

Jackson-Whyte received the settlement check, as is common, in August 2018. She’d been a member of the Florida Bar for nine years.

What she did next started a five-year clock ticking on her Bar membership.

READ MORE: A Fort Lauderdale area ‘Mother Theresa’ and, feds say, a $190 million Ponzi scheme

Moves made with Moore’s money

What follows is from testimony given by the Florida Bar and Jackson-Whyte before Barakat.

A Florida Bar auditor found Jackson-Whyte opened a trust account at Bank of America on Aug. 17, 2018 and deposited Moore’s $100,000 settlement check on Aug. 21, 2018 from Progressive Insurance. For the next 14 months, the Bar auditor testified and bank trust accounts showed, no other money went into the account.

Money left the account, however, via 16 disbursements. These include:

Aug. 31, Jackson-Whyte sent two checks to herself totaling $35,000 with “attorney’s fees” in the memo field. Barakat noted that with Moore’s money being the only money in the account, if those were attorney’s fees, they were her fees for the Moore case.

Sept. 9, 2018, two checks, each for $3,300 and marked “Personal Injury Claim Payment” went to Neefa Allison-Burgess and Dave Burgess, Jr.

Nov. 13, 2018, a check for $5,000 to Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Church.

Dec. 14, 2018, a check for $34,305.33 to Mount Nebo. Jackson-Whyte testified she sent these checks to the church in anticipation of a check for the church that came later, but that she spent almost year trying to get issued in a form the bank would accept.

(State records show two Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Churches in South Florida, one in Fort Lauderdale and one in South Miami. The referee’s report doesn’t indicate which one this is or if it’s one of the other Mount Nebos in Florida.)

March and April, 2019, two checks to Moore for a total of $3,300.

June 5, 2019, two checks, each for $1,000.50 and marked “personal injury benefits,” to Christina Pride and Taylona Hankerson.

June 5, 2019, a check for $2,500 to another law firm’s trust account for a foreclosure issue.

Aug. 9, 2019, a check for $1,500 to Jackson-Whyte with “Leroy Moore” in the memo line.

Aug. 22, 2019, a check for $1,000 to Jackson-Whyte with “Leroy Moore” in the memo line.

Oct. 15, 2019, a $500 check to Jackson-Whyte for “reimbursement for filing fees.”

By Oct. 23, 2019, Jackson-Whyte’s trust account, which started with $100,000 of Leroy Moore’s money, was down to $593.67. The next day, Jackson-Whyte deposited the Mount Nebo replacement check for $42,805 into the account.

Why didn’t Moore get his money?

As to why she distributed the money to Moore in such small drips, Jackson-Whyte testified that she and Moore were told by a Social Security Administration representative that a big settlement would jeopardize his Social Security disability payments.

“When questioned as to whether she was disturbed by the arrangement she had agreed to,” Barakat wrote, “[Jackson-Whyte] advised that she did not see anything wrong with it — although she did seem to realize during the questioning that her conduct was actually facilitating potentially fraudulent conduct.”

Also, Barakat noted, Jackson-Whyte had no written records — receipt, client closing statement, ledger card, trust statement — that showed payments or that Moore even knew what should’ve been coming to him.

“There was simply no evidence offered by [Jackson-Whyte] to corroborate her testimony,” Barakat wrote.

Also, even after the 2019 church check put some weight back into the trust account, no money definitely went to Moore before Nov. 30, 2021.

“While there were two disbursements during this period made payable to [Jackson-Whyte] with memo lines indicating the disbursement pertained to Mr. Moore and therefore arguably could have been reimbursements to [Jackson-Whyte], they totaled only $6,200.00 at most,” Barakat wrote.

Barakat concluded that Jackson-Whyte misappropriated at least $50,406.33 of the $100,000 she received for Moore.

“While this may not be a situation where respondent stole client money for her own personal enjoyment, she did sustain her practice by her misuse of the funds,” Barakat wrote.