Yoakum attorney pleads guilty to mishandling client's money, loses law license

Sonny Long

June 24, 2013 at 1:24 a.m.
Updated June 25, 2013 at 1:25 a.m.

Yoakum attorney Charles J. Kvinta Jr. has pleaded guilty to mishandling an elderly client's money.

The official charge is misapplication of fiduciary property of an elderly person, a first degree felony.

Kvinta, an attorney since 1985, entered into a plea agreement Wednesday in Cuero that avoided a grand jury indictment and a trial, according to 24th Judicial District Court documents.

He will be formally sentenced Aug. 1. He is free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond.

The terms of the plea bargain include 45 days in jail, a $5,000 fine and 500 hours of community service, according to court documents.

Kvinta must surrender his law license by Aug. 1.

He also must pay restitution to the woman, Nettie Steen, though the amount was not spelled out in the terms of the plea bargain on file at the district clerk's office.

Kvinta will also be on probation for six years.

He could have been sentenced to between five and 99 years in prison if the plea agreement had not been reached and he had been found guilty.

The charge stems from an October 2010 check made out to Steen from GeoSouthern Energy for $166,143 that was deposited into a Kvinta, Kvinta and Kvinta law firm trust account and never transferred to Steen.

DeWitt County District Attorney Michael Sheppard recused himself from the case because of his professional relationship with Kvinta.

Shane Attaway, assistant attorney general in the White Collar Crime and Public Integrity Section, represented the state for the Attorney General's Office.

Earlier this month, a civil suit involving Kvinta, his law firm and Steen was settled in Lavaca County.

The suit claimed Kvinta "fraudulently induced (Steen) to enter into" agreements to sell 110.762 acres of land and lease the mineral rights.

The suit also alleged Kvinta "misappropriated (Steen's) personal funds."

As part of the settlement Kvinta and his firm were ordered to pay $500,000 to Steen.

"It was an unfortunate situation, and we are glad we were able to help Mrs. Steen," said Austin attorney Rick Leeper, who along with Dicky Grigg represented Steen.

Kvinta submitted his resignation as Yoakum city attorney June 12, said city manager Kevin Coleman.

The City Council met in a special called meeting June 18 to accept the resignation and review options for city legal services moving forward, Coleman said.

The Advocate was unable to reach Kvinta for comment. His attorney in the criminal case, Van Hilley, of San Antonio, did not return telephone calls.



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