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Attorney charged with felony skips plea hearings, warrant issued (UPDATE)

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//December 19, 2011//

Attorney charged with felony skips plea hearings, warrant issued (UPDATE)

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//December 19, 2011//

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Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley talks outside the courtroom after attorney Thomas Bielinski failed to appear for a plea hearing on Monday at the Milwaukee Criminal Justice Facility. Bielinski was expected to plead guilty for his role in a mortgage foreclosure scam during the hearing. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

A Brookfield attorney charged with stealing more than $500,000 through a complex foreclosure scam is now a fugitive from the law after skipping court twice Monday.

Thomas Bielinski, 52, failed to appear at a 1:30 p.m. plea hearing in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge J.D. Watts’ courtroom after missing his initial 8:30 a.m. appearance.

Watts issued a bench warrant for Bielinski’s arrest Monday afternoon. The warrant includes forfeiture of a $10,000 personal recognizance bond posted by the defendant.

Bielinski was expected to plead guilty Monday to felony fraud charges that he allegedly stole $542,231.61 in unclaimed foreclosure money by falsely representing himself since 2007 as the attorney for the proper claimants.

According to the criminal complaint filed Aug. 23 by assistant district attorney Kurt Benkley, Bielinski targeted mortgage foreclosure cases in which there was surplus money from sheriff’s sales.

In addition to facing criminal charges, Bielinski had a foreclosure claim filed against him by Waterstone Bank SSB on Sept. 21 and his wife, Jane Bielinski, filed for divorce Sept. 15 in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

Bielinski also filed a letter with the State Bar of Wisconsin seeking voluntary resignation of his law license.

Speaking after the 1:30 hearing, Bielinski’s attorney Michael Hart, of Kohler & Hart SC, Milwaukee, said he had not been able to reach his client Monday. He declined to comment on why his client failed to show up for court or when he last talked to Bielinski.

“I’ve talked to him throughout the case,” Hart said. “I wouldn’t be able to comment on why he didn’t show up today.”

The plea hearing was initially scheduled for Dec. 14, but Hart requested a delay until Monday, Benkley said.

Based on Bielinski’s appearance at all five of his prior court dates, Benkley said, there was no indication he would fail to appear Monday.

“I can’t speculate as to his thinking,” he said. “I know he’s not here and I know he’s facing 10 years. Why he didn’t appear, we’ll find out when we catch him.”

At the 8:30 hearing, Hart told Watts he was unable to reach his client and asked that the court reschedule the hearing for 1:30 p.m.

Benkley asked Watts to issue a bench warrant for Bielinski, but the judge stayed the warrant until the afternoon hearing.

“I am very concerned,” Watts said Monday morning, “But I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that there was some misunderstanding …”

Sheriff’s deputies said Bielinski was not in custody at the time of the morning hearing.

More on the case against Bielinski


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