The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Florida paralegal Kristen Collins and her former employer, disbarred attorney Jessica Miller, have been charged with multiple felonies involving the theft of escrowed client funds, which was allegedly spent on shopping trips at Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s, Tampa Bay Rays baseball tickets and beach resort trips, including a firm vacation to Sand Dunes Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In 2004, Ms. Miller started her own firm, The Jessica Miller Law Firm in Port Richey, and hired Ms. Collins, who instead of drawing a salary, paid her personal bills from the firm’s accounts. The pair is accused of spending funds that clients had paid for fees or to be held in escrow in domestic cases.
The Florida Bar soon began investigating [Ms. Miller’s] conduct. Investigators there found complaints [as far back as] 2004, a year after Miller was admitted to the bar. Miller responded to the accusations by blaming her clients, saying they failed to turn over documents or give her working phone numbers.
By the end of 2007, Miller was nowhere to be found. She had evaded process servers trying to serve her with a judge’s order. Clients wanting to know the status of their divorce cases couldn’t reach her. Money that she was supposed to be holding in escrow for clients was missing, too. Ms. Collins told the Times that Miller was on a month-long medical leave.
Soon, her accounts were frozen and criminal authorities were investigating the missing money. She went to jail again for failing to show up for more court hearings, and she reached an agreement with the bar to give up her license.
Collins, 30, also went to jail briefly last year on a contempt of court charge.
See St. Petersburg Times.
Ms. Miller was jailed today but released on bail. Ms. Collins has surrendered to authorities and her bail has been set at $20,000.00. In a 2007 court hearing, Ms. Miller blamed Ms. Collins for the theft of the monies, but Ms. Collins told detectives that they were both equally to blame for the transfer and expenditure of client funds.
See also Tampa Bay Online.