The Law Society of Upper Canada has disbarred an “ungovernable lawyer” who cooked up a story about having his car stolen from a gas station while he went to buy a lottery ticket to explain away more than $200,000 in missing client money.
Three separate clients complained that Toronto lawyer William Donald Gray owed them $40,000, $30,000, and $150,000 respectively. During his law society hearing, Gray told the panel he had all the money in cash on the evening of Dec. 12, 2009, in a secret compartment in the trunk of his car.
Then, disaster struck.
Panel chairman Malcolm Mercer summarized what happened next in his Sept. 20 decision.
“We then have the story that all of this cash was stolen, having been placed in the trunk of the lawyer’s car, because the lawyer left his car running in order to ensure that the ashes of his dead dog did not freeze,” Mercer wrote.
“There is no corroboration of any of this except to the extent that the lawyer reported his car stolen, albeit without reporting the loss of approximately $200,000 in cash. This story is utterly incredible and we do not believe it to be true. The ‘cat and mouse’ game played by the lawyer in delaying and obstructing the investigation makes it impossible to accept this story which is inherently incredible and uncorroborated. What we might have thought of this story had the Lawyer co-operated with the investigation obviously cannot be known,” Mercer continued.
According to the decision, Gray failed to report the cash missing because he “did not want to seem to be an idiot and because he wanted to maintain credibility with the police in certain other client matters.”
One complaint involved Gray’s role as executor of a $500,000 estate. Accounts revealed the lawyer had disbursed $150,000 to himself for “safekeeping.” Gray claimed he was acting on the instructions of the beneficiary’s family to move the money out of the country because of a potential claim from a secret son of the deceased. Gray said he gave the money to a trusted former client who had been deported to Hungary.
Another complainant claimed he made a $30,000 interest-free loan to Gray, due for payment in April 2009, but never saw a penny repaid. Gray claimed the loan was actually for the same Hungarian former client.
The third complainant claimed he was owed $40,000 for the sale of a taxi licence arranged through Gray’s office. According to Gray, someone turned up at his office on Dec. 12, 2009 and left the missing cash. Not wanting to leave the money in his office over the weekend, he said he put it in the secret compartment in his car.
By coincidence, the same day, the lawyer said his Hungarian former client was back in the country, and handed over the $150,000 from the estate, as well as the $30,000 loan.
Gray’s luck seemed to be turning after the recent death of his dog, so a quick stop for a lottery ticket on his way home seemed a natural decision. But that’s when fate took a cruel twist.
Gray was ordered to pay $15,000 in costs, which he can get reduced to $2,000 if he co-operates in the completion of the investigation into the three complaints.