St. Augustine attorney disbarred, misappropriated fund from Oakbrook community

Court: Man misappropriated funds from Oakbrook community account


Article Courtesy of The St. Augustine Record

Published December 11, 2011

Court: Man misappropriated funds from Oakbrook community account

A local attorney whose license was suspended by the Florida Supreme Court in March 2008 has been disbarred in connection with another case, a report from the Florida Bar said.

Gregg Adam Steinberg, of St. Augustine, was retroactively disbarred on Aug. 30, 2010, following a court order on Oct. 7, 2011.

The report said Steinberg, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor, knowingly made false statements in court under oath, failed to disclose that he was the subject of a pending criminal investigation and misappropriated funds.

Steinberg graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1992 and was admitted to practice law in 1993, according to the Florida Bar website.

The official complaint filed against Steinberg by the Florida Bar says that he withdrew money without proper authorization from a bank account created by a committee of residents at the Oakbrook community in St. Augustine.

Residents created the account to possibly fund legal action against a developer, and Steinberg was the chair of the committee and donated $200 to the fund, the complaint said. He also lived in the community.

As chair, Steinberg was allowed to use the money only for reasons the committee authorized, the report said. By 2006, legal action between the committee and the developer was finished, but there was still nearly $9,000 in the bank account.

Steinberg started withdrawing money from the account in March 2008 without telling the committee, the complaint said. Within two months, Steinberg had withdrawn $8,400, which he used to pay for personal expenses.

When the vice chair of the committee, Harvey Goldstein, found out, he filed a misappropriation complaint with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the report said. After detectives contacted him, Steinberg repaid the money with $100 added on. The check he wrote drew from the “Law Office of Gregg A. Steinberg” account, but Steinberg was suspended from practicing law at the time.

Also, during the Sheriff’s Office investigation into the misappropriation complaint, Steinberg made several “misrepresentations,” the complaint said.

Among other things, Steinberg changed his story about how much money he donated to the committee’s fund and made inconsistent statements about how he withdrew and spent the money.

Ultimately, the state did not pursue criminal charges against Steinberg.

This is not the first time the court has disciplined Steinberg.

The Florida Supreme Court suspended Steinberg from practicing law for 91 days in 2008 for writing a fake subpoena to get cell phone records of a man he thought was having an affair with his estranged wife, according to a report by Circuit Judge Karen K. Cole of Jacksonville, who reviewed Steinberg’s case and recommended the suspension.

Steinberg pretended he needed the information for one of his cases, then made up a case number and listed a defendant’s name he heard on television, Cole wrote. Though saying Steinberg was apparently distraught at the time, Cole wrote that he committed a felony. She called the actions “particularly shocking” and harmful to the legal profession.

The judge’s report quoted a letter from Steinberg blaming his state of mind: “I was in the middle of an emotional situation, and I embarked on an inappropriate course of conduct.”

Disbarred lawyers may re-apply for admission to The Florida Bar in five years and have to go through a background check and retake the bar exam, according to the The Florida Bar. Many who reapply are rejected.