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Former Myles-Leger lawyer William Parsons asking for donations to help him practise law again
Fourteen years after he was stripped of his right to practise law in Newfoundland and Labrador, a former lawyer involved in one of the province's largest fraud schemes is hoping to be reinstated.
William Parsons, former lawyer for real estate development company Myles-Leger Ltd., has started a GoFundMe page to crowd source $11,000, which he says will assist him in his application to the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society.
"As all my friends and former clients remember, I grew up in Mount Pearl and after commencing the practice of law in 1986 I built a busy law practice and had the support of many of my former friends and acquaintances who retained me. My clients were generally very satisfied with my services and I was known as a good and ethical lawyer who did my best for people and always reached out to them with compassion," Parsons' page states.
"Then in the late 1990s I was approached by a company that wanted to start a large-scale real estate development company. I cannot divulge more than that as it would breach my oath of confidentiality. But the bottom line is that my devotion to the individuals who operated this company ... led to my personal and professional downfall."
Parsons was sentenced in 2015 to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and breaching trust for mishandling mortgage funds, taking money from clients' trust accounts and giving it to Myles-Leger when it ran into financial trouble. The frauds covered 28 properties and $1.3 million, where mortgages were not properly discharged.
According to an agreed statement of facts in his case, Parsons had been approached by the company owners, whom he said were longtime friends, and asked if he could advance the in-trust funds from the sale of real estate closings set for that week to the company. The money would be paid back the following week.
Parsons refused at first, but later agreed, and the money was paid back as promised. However, as the scheme continued, the list of unpaid mortgages grew.
The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador got involved after it was contacted by several financial institutions, executing an audit of Parsons' law firm's trust account and confirming he had paid out sale proceeds without obtaining discharges of mortgages. The society suspended Parsons and his associate, Glenn Bursey, in 2004, and later disbarred them. Bursey has since died.
Parsons served six months of his jail sentence before he was released on parole and deemed a low risk to reoffend.
Myles-Leger Ltd. was owned by brothers Bill and Randall Clarke.
Randall Clarke was initially charged with fraud, but the charge was dropped in 2014. Charges of conspiring to commit fraud against Bill Clarke and company comptroller Terrence Reardon were were thrown out in 2016 after a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge ruled that lengthy delays in bringing the men's case to trial had breached their rights.
Parsons' GoFundMe page asks for financial assistance from those who have observed his good character.
"I want to practise law again as I feel that I still have much to give to my future clients, including compassion (and) honesty and will provide a good and ethical service to those who choose to retain me," Parsons' GoFundMe page states. "I have been receiving legal advice and personal support from some of the most outstanding lawyers in the province, who advise that now is the right time to reapply to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador after a 16-year absence."
"I have been receiving legal advice and personal support from some of the most outstanding lawyers in the province, who advise that now is the right time to reapply to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador after a 16-year absence." — William Parsons on his GoFundMe Page
Parsons has raised just over $1,000 of his $11,000 goal in the five days since he posted the page, with donors commenting on his trustworthiness.
"Your dedication and loyalty (were) breached," one person wrote. "I have always felt so disturbed that this happened to such a caring and kind person as you."
Parsons will likely have to go to court to make his case for reinstatement.
— With files from Rosie Mullaley