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The Washington Redskins, in recent vintage, have been associated with a litany of questionable acts. But disbarment is likely a new one. That’s the punishment former Federal Trade Commission lawyer Seth Zimmerman faces after allegedly attempting to swindle Redskins fans. Zimmerman was sentenced January 17 to one year in prison, with time suspended, and two years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to first-degree felony theft in D.C. Superior Court. In September the D.C Board on Professional Responsibility recommended Zimmerman lose his law license because the conviction involved moral turpitude. According to court records, while an attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Zimmerman used his office’s Federal Express account to send Redskins tickets to eBay bidders. In August 2004, investigators at the Office of Inspector General for the FTC were contacted by people complaining that tickets they bought from Zimmerman on eBay were never delivered. What could have been some difficult Internet sleuthing was made easier because Zimmerman used his FTC e-mail address to set up his eBay account. The inspector general subpoenaed records from eBay showing that Zimmerman had been buying and selling tickets on the site since 2001. The Department of Justice claims that from August 2001 through July 2004, Zimmerman made more than $97,000 from 1,100 eBay sales, according to court papers. When questioned by the Inspector General’s Office, Zimmerman said his net profit from the sales was less than $10,000. Zimmerman explained to investigators that his failure to send tickets to his customers was an oversight and that it occurred because he was out of the country. The Inspector General’s Office then told Zimmerman it would take no action as long as he made good on sending the tickets to customers, court records say. Checking on Zimmerman’s promise, investigators followed up on the original complaint. One customer provided them with a FedEx receipt that showed Zimmerman used the FTC’s FedEx account to ship the tickets and other merchandise to eBay customers. The inspector general eventually found that Zimmerman used the FTC’s FedEx account for 159 personal transactions. In October 2005, the Justice Department charged Zimmerman with first-degree theft. The FTC says he cost the federal government $1,938. FedEx also says it lost $3,880 due to the discount shipping rate given to the federal government. According to the plea agreement, Zimmerman also profited by charging each buyer an additional $12 fee for the FedEx delivery. On Sept. 28, the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility concluded unanimously that Zimmerman violated the D.C. Bar Rules of Professional Conduct — agreeing with the D.C. Bar Counsel that the crime involved moral turpitude. The D.C. Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the board’s recommendation. Zimmerman could not be reached for comment. Robert Bonsib, a name partner at Greenbelt, Md.-based Marcus & Bonsib who represented Zimmerman in the criminal case, declined to comment.
OTHER RECENT D.C. ETHICS CASES INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: • Ever diligent, Jeffrey Gonzalez-Perez continued practicing in D.C. and Virginia despite being suspended by both bars for nonpayment of dues, according to the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility. Gonzalez-Perez was suspended by the D.C. Bar in September 1998 and by the Virginia Bar in March 2004. But throughout, Gonzalez-Perez, a solo practitioner based in Arlington, Va., specializing in immigration law, made several appearances before the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and also made clear in court his good standing with the bars. When D.C. Bar Counsel investigators confronted Gonzalez-Perez, he stated that he “simply ignored all inquiries wishing they would evaporate,” according to the bar counsel. Ironically, on August 17, the D.C. Court of Appeals Board of Professional Responsibility recommended suspending Gonzalez-Perez for six months, without a fitness requirement — in essence, the same punishment Gonzalez-Perez originally faced for not paying bar dues, though a disciplinary suspension is considered more severe. • In September, Alan Toppelberg was suspended from practicing law for 60 days by the D.C. Court of Appeals for what was, at best, sloppy bookkeeping. The court found Toppelberg failed to disperse funds to Advance Funding Corporation and Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services after settling a personal injury case in December 1999. The board also noted “that respondent has twice received informal admonitions for similar misconduct.” On Sept. 21, the court wrote, “[F]or several years the third parties were misled by Toppelberg’s staff regarding the status of the settlement — a situation that was, in part, attributable to Toppelberg’s failure to maintain adequate trust account records.”
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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