The Missouri Supreme Court temporarily suspended Joplin attorney Dan Whitworth’s law license Friday while he remains under investigation in connection with the forging of endorsements on checks and stolen client funds.
The state’s high court ordered the interim suspension of Whitworth’s license that the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel had sought in documents filed with the court Oct. 7.
Those documents alleged that Whitworth has engaged in several instances of “serious professional misconduct” and that he posed “a substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public.”
The Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel initiated its latest probe of Whitworth when Mid-Missouri Bank notified the office on May 22, 2013, that a trust account held by Whitworth held insufficient funds to cover a reversal of a $60,000 deposit he made into the account in June of the preceding year.
The bank had been presented with an affidavit of forgery regarding the endorsement on the check, which represented the final payment to Lyddon Aero Center of its settlement of a lawsuit against LP&F Trucking Inc., a company owned by the late Joplin businessman G.W. Jackson. The purported endorsement of the check by the owner of Lyddon Aero Center had been forged, according to information filed on behalf of the chief disciplinary counsel.
An investigator with the office pulled the bank records of the trust account for the period of Jan. 1, 2010, through April 2013 and found evidence of “forged check endorsements and court documents and misappropriated funds.”
The investigator learned that a portion of the lawsuit settlement had been used to pay the tax debts of another client, whose prior payments to the attorney had been used for still other purposes. There was also evidence that he misappropriated funds of clients in a workers’ compensation case and a probate case.
Since the chief disciplinary counsel filed its request with the court, two of those past clients have reported being contacted by a law enforcement agency. One of them identified the agency as the Missouri State Highway Patrol, suggesting that a criminal investigation of Whitworth is under way. But no charges have been brought against him.
Dan Whitworth was reprimanded by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2008 for failing to have a written fee agreement in a contingency case and failing to communicate with a client regarding official notices in a case before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also has been admonished by the court on four other occasions.