Crime & Courts

Wichita lawyer who stole more than $960,000 from elderly client sentenced

Larry Toomey, a disbarred Wichita attorney who stole more than $960,000 from an elderly client with dementia and spent the money on gambling, a Porsche and a Jaguar, asked a judge Friday during his sentencing if he could continue to visit his former client.

Toomey visited the 104-year-old victim in her nursing home last week, according to court-appointed guardian Becca Hess.

Hess and two of the victim’s family members spoke during Toomey’s sentencing hearing Friday in front of Sedgwick County District Court Judge Eric Williams.

Toomey had already entered into a plea agreement that presumed probation at the sentencing as well as Toomey losing his law license and undergoing an evaluation for a “gambling addiction” — among other things.

Hess asked Williams that Toomey not be allowed to visit the victim.

“Her dementia is to the point where she doesn’t even recognize her own family. So why would she recognize him,” Hess said.

Then, Toomey, who is in his 70s, had a chance to speak.

“The only thing I would do is ask the court accept my apologies on behalf of anyone that’s been harmed,” Toomey said. “I’ve known the (victim and her deceased husband) for over 25 years and they are certainly more than clients. And the extent that it is appropriate, I’d like to continue to see (the victim) since I am the only one on the outside that she recognizes.”

Williams denied Toomey’s request. He added to the list of caveats in Toomey’s sentencing of 24 months of probation with an underlying prison sentence of 26 months. The prison sentence would only happen if Toomey violated his probation.

An arrest affidavit, obtained by The Eagle in an open records request, outlined Toomey’s theft from the victim:

In 1993, Toomey helped draft a trust for the victim. She was in charge of the trust and her husband was the successor.

The trust had been amended five times: one amendment made Toomey the successor of managing the trust after the victim’s husband died and then another in 2012 put Toomey in charge of the trust.

The final amendment came a few days after the change that put Toomey in charge. This one made Toomey a beneficiary for 25 percent of the trust. Three members of the victim’s family also would receive 25 percent each.

Only one of the three family members was alive at the time of the investigation and she was unaware of being a beneficiary. The plea agreement stated Toomey’s claim to the trust represented “at least” $330,000 and at least $660,000 if he outlived the other beneficiary.

Family members said the victim had already been battling dementia for a few years by the 2012 amendments. The victim has been in a nursing home since at least 2011.

Toomey told investigators that a 2012 gift memo allowed him to spend up to $550,000 out of the account. Defense attorney Steven Mank argued that’s why Toomey didn’t take anything he wasn’t entitled to take.

“There was a gift memo that was in dispute here,” Mank told Judge Williams. “An independent attorney met with (the victim) before that gift memo was drafted.”

An FBI accountant observed that transactions of $773,323 from the trust between October 2011 to December 2014 “don’t appear to be for the benefit of (the victim)” as required of a trustee to do under state law.

Those transactions included $395,826 for gambling, $104,357 to local car dealers for a Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar and rent for a family member.

The court document also noted that Toomey deposited $127,952 back into the victim’s bank account shortly after being interviewed by an FBI agent. The document stated Toomey took $961,897, in all, from the victim between 2011 and 2018.

Williams’ ruling included that Toomey and his family member have no future claim to the trust and waived any fees said to be owed to Toomey. During the case, the state argued Toomey’s fees were well beyond the scope of what was reasonable for his service.

Toomey has already been disbarred and underwent an evaluation for his gambling, according to his attorney. Mank said the evaluation found that Toomey would need counseling.

“You practiced law long enough to understand your fiduciary duty that you owe to your clients,” Judge Williams said. “It’s clear to this court from the records before us, hearing the statements of counsel, the statements on behalf of the victim herself, that your actions were for your benefits and not the interest of your client, contrary to your fiduciary relationship.”

A niece and sister-in-law who drove up from Texas said they were happy with the ruling.

“I was anxious today but I am so glad we gave her a voice,” Karen Rader, the victim’s niece, told Sedgwick County Chief Attorney Robert Short after the sentencing.

Rader said her aunt lived with her husband in the same house for 60 years. They both retired from Beechcraft and had no children, she said.

Her aunt lived “very frugally,” Rader said. “But very giving.”

Rader said they’ve talked with legal counsel about filing a civil lawsuit against Toomey. She said they would still need to talk about it as a family before moving forward.

Short would not discuss the case, but said that elder abuse is a growing problem.

“We have seen a steady increase year by year in elder abuse cases referred to the office,” Short wrote to The Eagle in an email. “Most of the abuse is in the financial arena and involves suspects who are close to the victims, such as family members and caregivers who have gained access to the elder person’s personal financial information.”

Michael Stavola covers breaking news at The Wichita Eagle. He’s won a national and several state awards during his five years of working at newspapers in Kansas. He plans to finish his MBA at Wichita State University in spring 2020. Michael likes to exercise, hunt and spend time with his wife and their dog, Marley.