Toronto lawyer stripped of licence after $3M taken, mostly from charity

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TORONTO - A Toronto lawyer has been stripped of his licence for "egregious" misconduct after Ontario's governing body for lawyers found he took more than $3 million of clients' money, most of it bound for charity.

The Law Society of Upper Canada says it revoked Michael Ingram's licence for professional misconduct after finding that he misappropriated money from client trust funds, including taking $101,000 from a client and giving it to his own brother to buy real estate.

That real estate purchase was also funded with $182,000 that Ingram took from a charity he helped oversee, the law society said.

The discipline panel found that Ingram had been siphoning money from trust accounts and doling it out to other people, including his brother and his wife, then shifting money around between various other accounts to try to replace the funds.

It began in October 2005 and ended in May 2008, amounting to $3.1 million in unauthorized transfers, the law society said in its decision late last month.

Ingram, 69, agreed with the law society in July 2008 not to practice law, and following its investigation, the law society has now revoked his licence.

Toronto police charged Ingram this July with theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000 and his case is still before the courts. The case has not been proven criminally. His next appearance is scheduled for Dec. 13.

Most of the unauthorized transfers came from the account of a charitable foundation in Toronto that ran a residence for seniors, the law society found. Ingram was the charity's lawyer and on its board of directors.

The charity was in the process of winding up and sold its main property in April 2006. The money from that sale was supposed to be distributed to other charities.

Instead, the law society said Ingram doled the money out to various other people, overseas law firms and churches such as Glorious Praise Ministries, sometimes using the money to pay their expenses such as legal bills and credit cards.

"The misconduct in this case is egregious," the law society concluded.

"The misconduct...continued for over two and a half years with over 130 improper transfers. The fact that over $2 million was taken from a charitable foundation is of particular concern."

The law society found it "troubling" that Ingram didn't appear before the panel to explain himself or offer any remorse in person. Ingram, a lawyer since 1971 with no previous law society discipline issues, said through his lawyer at a hearing that he wanted to make restitution, but only $24,000 has been repaid so far.

Nadia Liva, Ingram's lawyer, declined to comment when reached by telephone.

Geographic location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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