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Milwaukee lawyer gets probation for embezzlement

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//May 25, 2018//

Milwaukee lawyer gets probation for embezzlement

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//May 25, 2018//

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A Milwaukee trusts and estates lawyer has been sentenced to a year of probation for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a Dodge County woman’s estate.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office charged Daniel Morse last year with eight counts of embezzlement for taking more than $26,000 from the woman’s estate over eight months in 2014.

The beneficiaries of the estate had hired Morse in 2013 to represent them and be the estate’s personal representative. But they fired him in 2014 after he failed to communicate with them.

They hired a new lawyer, who discovered that more than $26,000 of the estate’s money was missing. The new lawyer asked a Dodge County judge to force Morse to produce the money as well as the estate’s financial records. After the court ordered the money returned in 2015, Morse paid it back.

The charges in the criminal complaint ranged from felonies to misdemeanors. Morse faced a maximum punishment of $80,00 in fines and nearly 25 years in prison.

He took a plea deal in January in which he pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor embezzlement. In return, the DA’s office, represented by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, recommended that Morse be placed on probation for two years, during which he would not be allowed to act as a fiduciary, according to court records.

Morse also agreed to pay to the estate’s beneficiaries 5 percent interest on the money he took as well as the more than $8,000 in legal fees they spent attempting to get the money back. Morse was represented by Dennis Coffey of Milwaukee-based Mawicke & Goisman.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Wall on April 24 sentenced Morse to six months in jail but stayed the sentence and put Morse on probation for a year, during which Morse must complete 40 hours of community service.

“The need to protect the public, I think, is extremely low here,” said Wall, according to court records. “I think Mr. Morse has suffered greatly as a result of these charges.”

Wall made note of the letters that Morse’s children wrote to the court, noting that they showed a positive side of him not entirely captured at the sentencing hearing.

“So when we look at Mr. Morse’s background and character … we set this event aside,” said Wall. “It’s all positive. Everything is positive.”

The conclusion in the criminal case lets the disciplinary case against Morse go forward.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed charges against Morse a year before the DA’s office filed criminal charges. Morse faces a two-year license suspension for allegedly violating eight attorney ethics rules while handling the Dodge County estate.

The proceeding before the court-appointed referee in the case, James Mohr, had been stayed pending the conclusion of the criminal case. A hearing is now set for July, according to court records. Peyton Engel of Madison-based Hurley Burish is representing Morse in the disciplinary case.

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