A former Upper Arlington lawyer faces a range of charges for allegedly forging documents and collecting death benefits intended for a minor child.
Lindsey T. Burt, 33, of Berwyn Road, was indicted Aug. 27 on felony charges of theft, forgery, tampering with records and money-laundering.
As of ThisWeek Upper Arlington News' press time, Burt was slated to appear in Franklin County Common Pleas Court Sept. 11 for arraignment.
The county prosecutor's office alleges Burt altered documents that were supposed to make Mark Chapa of Texas the legal guardian of his son, a minor who lived in Franklin County and whose mother had died.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Burt arranged to collect the woman's Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) death benefits, which were intended to go to the woman's son.
"(Burt) altered documents to make herself guardian ... and to designate the money go into an account controlled by her," O'Brien said. "She told the natural father she had to be guardian to collect the benefits for him.
"She periodically sent money to (Mark) Chapa in Texas to kind of keep him at bay. She periodically sent him money, but it was not much."
According to the prosecutor's office, the criminal activity occurred between April 18, 2008, and April 19, 2013.
During that time, Burt allegedly collected $67,183 from OPERS, but turned over only around $12,000 to the boy's father.
Burt's attorney, Bradley Koffel, said Aug. 30 he hadn't seen the prosecution's allegations against his client, but added Burt would plead not guilty at the arraignment.
"We need time to digest what the accusations are and have an opportunity to see what the claims are and try to understand them ourselves," Koffel said. "Lindsey is deeply surprised by these allegations."
Koffel did not identify Burt's former law firm, but said she was a "young associate recently out of law school, working at the direction of an experienced lawyer who had been around quite a while, and who I don't believe is in practice any more."
According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Burt was admitted to practice law in Ohio Nov. 7, 2005.
She voluntarily surrendered her law license in March 2011 with undisclosed disciplinary action pending, according to Supreme Court records.
In January 2012, the Clients' Security Fund, an office affiliated with the Ohio Supreme Court, awarded a former client of Burt's $300 due to "dishonest conduct" on Burt's part for "failure to provide services requested."
"She was an associate with a law office, and when she left there, questions began being asked," O'Brien said. "They launched an investigation.
"She surrendered her law license because they would've taken it when all the smoke cleared."
O'Brien said the charges against Burt, if she is found guilty, are punishable by a maximum of nine years in prison.