A Houston-area man has sued Houston criminal-defense attorney Samuel D. Adamo and his firm, alleging he gave the defendants his life savings of $90,000 to pay a cash bond, but they have refused to return $80,000 that wasn’t needed.
Hai V. Pham alleges in the Oct. 15 petition that Adamo and Adamo/Adamo “stole” the $80,000 that he gave to Adamo for deposit into Adamo’s trust account.
“Defendants converted this account when it stole the money and used it to pay themselves attorney fees—unearned attorneys’ fees at that, since the agreement for the retention of Defendants to handle the Illinois criminal case was a flat fee of $25,000,” Pham alleges in the petition in Hai V. Pham v. Samuel D. Adamo.
Adamo did not return a telephone message seeking comment, but his attorney Fred Hagans, a shareholder in Hagans Burdine Montgomery Rustay of Houston, says the allegations are “untrue.”
Hagans says he’s attempted to contact Pham’s attorney, Houston solo David Vuong, but Vuong has not returned his calls.
“I would like to get this cleared up,” Hagans says.
Vuong did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Pham alleges in the petition that he hired Adamo and his firm on April 7, 2012, to represent him in a criminal matter and paid a “flat fee” of $7,500. At that time, Pham alleges, he was in jail in Fort Bend County on a felony warrant from Illinois.
On April 12, 2012, Pham alleges, he was released from jail to voluntarily surrender to authorities in DuPage County, Ill., and he met with Adamo at his office on April 16, 2012, and agreed to pay a $25,000 fee to represent him in that criminal matter in Illinois.
Pham alleges Adamo led him to believe he was licensed in Illinois. Pham alleged he paid the $25,000 to Adamo, but, despite his promise, Adamo never sent him a fee agreement.
Pham alleges he again met with Adamo at his office on May 14, 2012, and Adamo told him “there is no bondsman” in Illinois and Pham would need $100,000 in cash to post bond in Illinois. Pham alleges he came up with $90,000 from his “lifetime savings” and his retirement fund, and he wrote a $90,000 check to the Sam Adamo Trust Fund on May 18, 2012.
“Defendant Adamo assured Plaintiff that this fund will be used to post bail with the court in Illinois and will be returned to Plaintiff once the Illinois case is finalized, minus any penalty, restitution, court costs and any other costs ordered by the court,” Pham alleges in the petition.
Pham alleges Adamo traveled to Illinois on June 11, 2012, where he met with a local counsel and appeared in court with Pham for a bond-reduction hearing. At that time, Pham surrendered himself to authorities. A judge set Pham’s bond at $100,000, and Adamo provided Pham’s family with certified checks to post the required $10,000 cash bond.
Pham alleges the $10,000 came from the $90,000 trust account, and $80,000 should have been left in the account.
Pham alleges Adamo requested another $25,000 for an expert on Oct. 8, 2012, and when Pham suggested using money in the trust fund, “Adamo told Plaintiff there was no money in the Trust Account.”
“Plaintiff was shocked. Plaintiff immediately requested a face-to-face meeting,” Pham alleges in the petition.
Pham alleges that at a meeting on Oct. 13, 2012, when he asked Adamo what happened to the $80,000, Adamo said “an email was sent to Plaintiff that [the] $80,000 balance was used for additional attorney fees.” Pham alleges that when he asked for a copy of the email, “Adamo produced a piece of paper” that did not appear to be a “valid email.”
Pham alleges he asked Adamo what he spent the $80,000 on, and Adamo told him he had paid $25,000 to the local counsel in Illinois. But Pham alleges the local counsel told him Adamo only paid him $10,000 and he “did all the work on Plaintiff’s case, as Defendant Adamo was not licensed to practice in Illinois.”
Pham alleges that he did not authorize Adamo to use the $80,000 for anything other than bond, and when he asked for a refund, “Adamo ended the meeting and escorted Plaintiff to the exit.”
On Dec. 21, 2012, Pham alleges he terminated Adamo and his firm and requested a refund of the trust fund and his file, but the defendants have “refused” to provide either.
Pham brings common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and conversion/theft causes of action against the defendants, and he alleges they violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice-Consumer Protection Act.
Pham seeks between $200,000 and $1 million from the defendants in damages, penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest and attorney fees.