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#443686 - 08/01/12 07:37 AM Ret'd US Attorney Complains About Local Lawyer
Marty Offline
We always hear complaints about the justice system and the abysmal conviction rate for murder.

According to the American Bar Association - which reviewed Belize's justice system, it's about 10%.

But if you want a lower conviction rate, try the Bar Association Disciplinary Committee - their conviction rate is very close to zero. And a retired American Attorney is finding that out first hand after he filed a complaint against an attorney months ago and nothing has happened. He told us his story:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
Richard Gentry decided to retire at Reef Village in Belize in 2007. It looks like Paradise but there have been problems with the development. And to have his say in those problems he needed a land title to his unit - and that's where his problems started:

Richard Gentry, claims he was defrauded by attorney
"And I said I haven't paid my strata title or my transfer tax or stamp tax and I want to do that because I want to be able to take part of this meeting on the 30th and I don't want anybody to say that I don't own any units, so he said you have to talk to Arthur Saldivar our attorney in order to do that. On January 11th 2010 I went to the Reef Village office and Saldivar was there, I never met him before but I was introduce to him and I told him who I was that I owned unit G202 and I want to pay the stamp tax and whatever fee was involve. So he did some calculating and he told me that I owed $12,900.00 in stamp tax and $1,000 as fees for him and I said how can I pay that and he said that I can give him a cheque. So I wrote out a cheque for $13,900.00 the total of the two sums and I said who do I make it payable to and he said make it to Belize Law Center - that's my firm. I said fine and that's what I did."

This is the check that Gentry wrote to the Belize Law Center which is a business registered under Arthur Saldivar's name. The check was cashed and this receipt was issued:

Richard Gentry
"He handed me a receipt dated January 9th from Belie Law Center - a receipt of $13,900.00. So there is no question that he got it and there is no question that he has it. The only question is that he hasn't paid it back to me."

Saldivar says he hasn't paid it back because the titles are being held up due to an administrative bottleneck at the Ministry of Natural Resources.

He says he has no intention of taking Gentry's money and once the map is approved and the title is available, he'll get it with the stamp duty fully paid.

Saldivar says there are ten clients of his in the same position at Reef village where he hasn't been able to get title for two years.

Now, if the amount for the tax had been made out separately to the Government of Belize - none of this would be happening:

Jules Vasquez
"Now as an attorney yourself do you lament that you were so trusting in making out a cheque to someone for a fee that really was not payable to them?"

Richard Gentry
"I do lament that. I lament it daily. I shouldn't have done it. I believe what I was told. I didn't not know Saldivar as I know him now."

And, now, Gentry says he just wants back his money - money that he's been trying to get back for over a year - and filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association

Richard Gentry
"Since then nothing at all has happen."

Jules Vasquez
"You are an attorney yourself."

Richard Gentry
"I am an attorney and I am familiar with the way it would work in my part of the world in Pennsylvania in the United States. I mean a if a complaint did not go responded to or unanswered or un-acted upon for 6 or 8 or 9 months the way this one has."

And so now, he says he is at the end of his rope:

Richard Gentry
"And frankly if this doesn't work my next alternative is to go to the police and file charges with them."

Jules Vasquez
"However you indicated to me when we spoke earlier that you don't want to file a criminal complaint."

Richard Gentry
"No I don't."

Jules Vasquez
"The reason being?"

Richard Gentry
"I want to get paid I don't want to put him in jail. I am not getting paid if he goes to jail. At least it doesn't seem that's a logical result. I am trying to ruin the man; I just want my money back."

Saldivar and Gentry agree that they met on San Pedro where Gentry verbally requested a refund of his money.

Saldivar says he has not gotten anything in writing. The secretary of the bar told us that whenever a complaint is made a copy is sent to the relevant attorney.

Channel 7

#443699 - 08/01/12 08:35 AM Re: Ret'd US Attorney Complains About Local Lawyer [Re: Marty]
Amanda Syme Offline
If the money hasnt been paid to the GOB due to a "bottle neck" then the money should bemin escrow and easily refundable. If it has already been paid to the GOB then there is a legal government receipt that can be produced.

Unfortunately there have been so many tales of woe regarding this particular project and titles are in such disarray it is extremely difficult to tell exactly where the truth lies.

The GOB ministry of lands appears to be at a standstill, not only for the Reef Village strata titles but for first registrations too. And there seems to be no relief on the horizon. There is a huge amount of money that government could collect that is not collected because of this bottle neck. It seems to me that the $100K due on the Reef Village titles alone could be used to hire temporary assistants to clear the bottleneck. And I know of thousands of dollars tied up in other land transactions that cannot proceed because the Ministry is not able to process documents in a timely manner. I have documents that have been in the system for over a year with no apparant movement towards completion.

Maybe the lands dept could stop declaring new compulsory registration areas until the back log has been cleared.

#443709 - 08/01/12 10:33 AM Re: Ret'd US Attorney Complains About Local Lawyer [Re: Marty]
Nobody You Know Offline
It renews my faith in humanity when attorneys screw attorneys...

#443742 - 08/01/12 11:53 PM Re: Ret'd US Attorney Complains About Local Lawyer [Re: Amanda Syme]
LaurieMar Offline
[quote=Amanda Syme]If the money hasnt been paid to the GOB due to a "bottle neck" then the money should bemin escrow and easily refundable. If it has already been paid to the GOB then there is a legal government receipt that can be produced.

That makes sense. Wondering if Belize has any Professional Responsibility laws/Canons of Ethics that attorneys are bound by. I know nothing about the Reef Village project, nor do I want to, but something smells very wrong here. A complaint to the State Bar here in California can ultimately result in public reproval, interim suspension or disbarment. Yeah, I know Belize is not California, but seems to me, there must be some accountability.

Nobody: Lots of folks make stoopid cracks at attorneys, I probably have heard them all (my own father is the worst offender lol), but when you need one and you retain a good one, your world can be a lot better. Too bad the retired attorney can't slap a subpoena on him to appear in court and give a financial accounting.

#443755 - 08/02/12 07:51 AM Re: Ret'd US Attorney Complains About Local Lawyer [Re: LaurieMar]
bywarren Offline
I had a different experience with the Belize Bar Association. I had given a retainer to attorney Michael Peyrefitte to initiate court action to collect on a judgment awarded me. He did not do the work and refused to address my request to return the monies advanced. I contacted the Bar Association with detailed information about the incident. They notified the attorney and sent me the information on filing a formal complaint which they would take up at their next meeting.
The attorney then refunded the money. I elected not to proceed with the complaint as I would be required to appear for the hearing.
Bottom line, the Bar Association did address this and the matter was resolved.

And as far as collecting on the judgement, I retained attorney Aldo Reyes who did the work and collected the monies owed. An interesting note on Belize law, the court will collect monies owed by confiscating and selling the property of the person owing the money if they refuse to pay and they are required to pay all attorney fees. It did not cost me a penny to ultimately collect.

Also, the oringinal court action cost me nothing as the judgement awarded me was for all court costs and attorney fees.

Edited by bywarren (08/02/12 08:23 AM)


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