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Lawyer accused of stealing trust money

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/06/14 11:43

Before he died in 2002, the Rev. Vincent O'Dea made sure a charitable trust he founded would continue to bestow his generosity on worthy causes for years to come. But prosecutors say the lawyer hired by the trustees to manage O'Dea's account stole the money instead. J. Peter Parrish, 39, of Rocky River, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to a charge of aggravated theft. Prosecutors accused the lawyer of looting the priest's trust ac count of nearly $200,000 between March 2004 and December 2005.

"This is sickening," Prosecutor Bill Mason said Wednesday. "The charitable trust established by Father O'Dea continues his life's work of giving to others even after his death. This attorney's theft of trust assets is, in effect, stealing from the poor and needy. He is without conscience."

Mason said Economic Crimes Unit prosecutors already have negotiated a plea deal with Parrish and his lawyer that would require him to repay $250,000 to the trust and to plead guilty to an aggravated theft charge.

Parrish already has repaid $83,000, and filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court to assume inactive status as a lawyer, said his attorney, James Sammon.

"We have worked diligently to resolve the estate in probate court," Sammon said. "And he is in the process of winding down his law practice."

When he died, O'Dea was 92 and under the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor at their home in Warrensville Heights. He had served as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Hudson and St. Peter's Church in Lorain.

One of the trustees of O'Dea's charitable trust account noticed suspicious bank activity, and reported it to the Cleveland Bar Association. Bar officials contacted the prosecutor's office.


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