On March 29, 2011, in Roanoke, Virginia, Steven Frank Helm, who practiced law in Salem, Va., was sentenced to 24 months in prison, two years of supervised release and fined $200. Helm pleaded guilty in December 2011 to mail fraud and filing a false tax return. According to the Factual Basis, in 2005, a client retained Helm to represent him in a personal injury case. The case settled in 2006 and Helm received the settlement proceeds, which he deposited into his attorney trust account. Helm’s client was required to use a portion of the settlement proceeds to reimburse Medicare for medical costs incurred because of an accident. Helm’s client believed that Helm had reimbursed Medicare in 2006. However, in December 2009, the client learned that Medicare had not been reimbursed. The client filed a complaint with the Virginia State Bar. When Helm learned of complaint, he mailed three checks to Medicare, but stopped payment on one of the checks. The Virginia State Bar investigated the complaint and determined that Helm had inappropriately used other clients’ funds, and his trust account had been overdrawn on at least three separate occasions. In 2009, Helm inappropriately disbursed $130,000 and used the fund for such things as personal travel; a family member’s tuition; building expenses for Helm’s property interests; and personal financial commitments. Despite using these funds for his personal expenses, Helm’s did not report any of the funds taken from his trust account or converted from his operating account as income on his 2009 tax return.
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