A Stratford attorney has been charged with larceny in a case that arose out of a dispute concerning his fee in a workers’ compensation case.
Laurence Parnoff, 72, was arrested Aug. 18 by inspectors from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.
Parnoff was charged with one count of first-degree larceny, a felony carrying a maximum prison term of 20 years.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the chief state’s attorney received a complaint from the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel alleging that Parnoff had misappropriated $363,960 received in a client’s workers’ compensation claim against a Bridgeport Hospital.
The client, Darcy Yuille, who was awarded a settlement of $1.1 million in 2004, took issue with the amount of the fee Parnoff demanded as payment, prosecutors said. According to court records, Yuille agreed to pay Parnoff $125,000, but he wanted a 40 percent fee, which she argued was excessive.
The case has been dragging on in litigation since 2005.
Parnoff disagreed with Yuille’s claims that the fee was too high and filed a civil suit against one of her lawyers for interfering. As a result of the litigation, Parnoff was awarded a substantial portion of the escrow account, but not all of it.
Despite that decision, on July 26, 2010, Parnoff appropriated the entire amount of the escrow account, $363,960, to himself, according to the arrest warrant.
After his arrest, Parnoff was released on a $50,000 bond. He will be arraigned in Superior Court in Bridgeport on Aug. 29.
It’s not the first time Parnoff has been in legal trouble. Back in January, Superior Court Judge Maureen Dennis sentenced Parnoff to a three-month suspended sentence and one year of probation for threatening to shoot at two water company employees.
The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel presented a complaint against Parnoff for the underlying misappropriations case in court in 2013. But instead of the 12-year suspension of Parnoff’s law license the office requested, Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis issued Parnoff a written reprimand.
In her decision, Bellis found that Parnoff acted negligently, but not willfully, and that “his conduct did not reflect any lack of integrity … and that he did not act willfully or with the intent to deceive Yuille.”
Chief Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King on July 28 appealed the decision to the state Appellate Court; the first time her office has done so.
King declined to discuss the case because it remains pending. “Our brief speaks for itself,” she said.
Parnoff was represented by Paul Pollock in the disciplinary case, and has not yet responded to King’s appeal.
Parnoff could not be immediately reached for comment.