A longtime Dallas attorney who has advertised “the highest level of integrity” was indicted after police said he stole $365,000 from a client.
The indictment came weeks after the FBI seized money from the lawyer in a separate case, according to forfeiture.gov, a government website that posts seizure notices.
Walter Thomas Finley, 70, is charged with felony theft in a case involving the trust fund of an East Texas woman.
He has not yet been arrested and did not return phone calls or text messages seeking comment.
The woman’s family gave Finley $416,000 in late 2012 to set up the fund and make quarterly payments to her, but he stopped after a year, according to a Highland Park police report and court records.
The woman, Deborah Edge of Talco, hired another lawyer and sued Finley in 2015.
Her lawsuit includes copies of emails in which she asked Finley about the missing payments.
“I apologize for the delay. Thank you for your patience,” Finley wrote back.
In another email, he indicated he had invested the money in a hedge fund.
“I am working with the hedge funds to get released as much as is possible under the terms of the hedge fund agreements,” he said.
Finley didn’t respond to the lawsuit or show up to court, and the woman was awarded $671,150 in damages and attorney fees, according to court records.
Her new attorney, Mark Heidenheimer of McKinney, said Finley has never paid the money.
Heidenheimer filed a criminal complaint in Highland Park because the documents were signed in that city.
The indictment was handed up May 25.
On April 2, the FBI seized $91,000 from Finley’s account at a Dallas bank, according to forfeiture.gov.
FBI spokeswoman Melinda Urbina in Dallas declined to give any details of the investigation.
But the records show that at the same time, agents also seized money from an Addison company Finley formed called Greenview Investment Partners.
Greenview invested in the "legal marijuana" business, according to the Dallas Business Journal. The firm is no longer in business.
Finley filed a document last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission identifying himself as corporate secretary and indicating the company planned to raise between $5 million and $25 million from investors.
In the same case, the government seized a 2017 Bentley worth $205,000 and a 2018 Range Rover valued at $52,000 from two other people linked to Greenview.
LAW LICENSE SUSPENDED
The Texas Bar Association suspended Finley’s license for two months beginning in May 2017 for violating its rules of professional conduct. He also was put on probation until October 2018.
The bar’s website noted the suspension but gave no details.
But according to the Texas Bar Journal, which tracks lawyers’ discipline, Finley failed to give settlement funds to a client, did not answer the client’s questions, and failed to keep the money “separate from Finley’s own property.” He was ordered to pay $4,500 in restitution and $5,000 in attorneys’ fees.
In July 2017, in another case, Finley was paid $2,500 to represent a man in a tax matter but neglected to work on the case and keep his client informed, the bar said.
Just last month, Finley was issued a formal reprimand in that case, ordered to repay the client and pay an additional $2,000 in legal fees.
Finley is the only attorney in his office which is located on Turtle Creek Boulevard.
His website said he offers a wide range of legal services, including tax issues and estate planning.
“We aim to exceed your expectations,” it says. “Our balanced approach combines expert knowledge in crucial practice areas with the highest level of integrity.”
HISTORY OF FINANCIAL PROBLEMS
Separate from any criminal investigation, public records reviewed by NBC DFW show Finley has a history of financial problems.
In May 2010, the IRS filed a $448,197 lien on his Dallas home for tax years 2004 and 2005. He then defaulted on his mortgage and the bank foreclosed on the house, according to Dallas County court documents.
In February 2015, American Express Bank sued Finley over $45,244 in unpaid credit card bills. He was ordered to pay $1,200 a month.
“The defendant represents that due to his financial condition he is unable to make larger payments,” the receiver wrote in a court filing.
It was unclear from the court records if he ever repaid the debt.
In March 2016, Finley and his wife were evicted from another Dallas home, according to a court filing.