State Supreme Court disbars attorney accused of vanishing with clients’ cash
Originally Published May 29, 2020 | Republished by LIT; Oct 26, 2020
TAMPA, Fla. – In 2014, Jose Toledo was living the good life. Back then, he was married to State Representative Jackie Toledo and was a well-respected attorney in Tampa.
But five years later, his marriage broke up, his law firm abruptly shut down, and he was accused of stealing thousands from his clients.
“It was very unnerving, it was very disturbing, it’s very upsetting,” offered Monica Vazquez, one of those clients.
Vazquez had been in a car crash and she went looking for a reputable attorney. She hired Jose Toledo — a decision she would soon regret.
She got $7,000 settlement for her accident but never saw a dime. When Vazquez went looking for her money, Toledo had closed up shop and skipped town.
Vazquez says Toledo purposely targeted the Hispanic community because they were vulnerable and he took it advantage of it.
“He wasn’t showing up for their cases. Some of them were starting to get deportation notifications because he didn’t fulfill his obligations. Some of them paid him $8,000 or $10,000,“ Vazquez continued.
That money, along with Toledo, is gone. And less than 24 hours ago, the Florida Supreme Court announced they disbarred Toledo, stripping him of his law license.
Court documents show Toledo may have left the country. So far no criminal charges have been filed against him.
“To leave him just being disbarred but not have to face any criminal charges is not justice,” Vazquez added.
Florida Bar moves to suspend lawyer facing 31 complaints. But no one can find him.
Originally Published Oct. 22, 2019 | Republished by LIT; Oct 26, 2020
TAMPA ― The Florida Bar wants the state’s highest court to immediately suspend a Tampa attorney’s law license after he failed to respond to complaints that he stopped communicating with clients and withheld settlement money.
José Angel Toledo is the subject of 31 disciplinary complaints filed with the Bar by his clients and one medical provider, according to a petition the Bar filed Friday with the Florida Supreme Court. Toledo “appears to be causing great public harm,” according to the petition.
Toledo, 45, is the ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican. The two have four children together and were married about 13 years before she filed for divorce in 2017, according to court records. The divorce was declared final Oct. 8.
Jackie Toledo did not respond to requests from the Times for comment.
A warrant has been issued for José Toledo’s arrest for contempt of court over his failure to pay his ex-wife $122,000 in overdue family support, according to court records. Her lawyers filed a document in August saying they believe he may have left the country.
Jackie Toledo has no idea where he is, according to the records.
Jose Toledo of Tampa has advertised his law practice extensively on billboards and broadcast commercials.
Toledo advertises on Spanish-language TV and on billboards as “Su Abogado Hispano,” your hispanic lawyer. His practice areas include personal injury, workers compensation, immigration, bankruptcy and criminal defense.
The complaints against José Toledo say he stopped responding to client inquiries and failed to distribute funds in legal settlements. The complaints echo one another, with some clients saying they never received money from settlements and others saying they had trouble getting in touch with him.
Calls to his law firm eventually rang to a disconnected line, according to the complaints.
The Bar started looking into the complaints in July. The petition says an investigator has been unable to locate or contact José Toledo.
Some clients retained another attorney, Jose De Jesus Aguilera, but he also has been unable to reach Toledo, the petition said. In July, Aguilera made several trips to Toledo’s law office at 5631 Hoover Blvd., but each time the lights were off and the door was locked.
Later that month, Toledo was served with a subpoena to produce his firm’s bank records by Aug. 1, according to court records. He asked for and was given an extension until Aug. 5.
In the 2½ months since then, the Bar hasn’t received a response from him.
The landlord at Toledo’s law office had him evicted in late September. The eviction complaint says Toledo hadn’t paid his rent since January. Days later, a Bar investigator entered the office and found nine filing cabinets and six credenzas filled with clients’ files.
The Florida Bar is looking for Tampa attorney José Toledo, shown here with his wife Jackie Toledo before she ran for state Legislature and before they divorced.
The Bar’s petition accuses Toledo of seven violations of rules governing the legal profession. The Bar also has asked the Florida Supreme Court to order him not to touch any client funds. If a lawyer is found to have misappropriated client money, the Bar helps provide compensation through a Clients’ Security Fund.
A document filed in August by a lawyer for Jackie Toledo says it is believed José Toledo consulted with other attorneys about transferring his cases to them in order to avoid disclosing his full income as part of the divorce case.
Other court records describe a precarious financial situation.
During their marriage, the couple “enjoyed a very high standard of living,” according to a judge’s order in the divorce case. Their living expenses in 2016 totaled almost $800,000. They owned multiple homes and sent their children to a private school, paying tuition of about $50,000 a year.
The judge’s order states that most of their income was from Jose Toledo’s law practice.
José Toledo was ordered to pay his ex-wife $20,000 a month in temporary support. At one point, he was in arrears more than $188,000. Some of that was paid off and Toledo was ordered to pay the remaining $122,000 by the end of 2019, but has not done so.
Jackie Toledo expressed concerns in court about her ex-husband’s abuse of alcohol and drugs and a judge questioned Jose Toledo’s behavior around his children, saying he has not demonstrated an ability to properly care for them, according to court records.
For his part, José Toledo accused his ex-wife of causing disruptions at his law office by showing up unannounced, according to the records.
Tampa police arrested Toledo at his New Tampa home in March on a charge of domestic battery involving a woman described as his girlfriend. An arrest report says they were living together when he struck her during an argument. The State Attorney’s Office later dropped the charge.
In August, the owner of the New Tampa home filed suit against Toledo, saying he had failed to pay rent and had caused “extensive physical damage” to the property before moving out.
A notice in the court file indicates that a process server located Toledo on Sept. 28 at an address in Miami. He was given a copy of the lawsuit complaint and a summons. It was unclear if he is still there.
“It may be claimed Lawyer Azuero could be a victim herself, controlled by her creditor rights team Partner(s) like Thomas Hefferon, a 25 year Goodwin veteran. Nevertheless, as with John Gellene, she should be held accountable for her own greed, perjury…” https://t.co/HgLtKwkQVZ pic.twitter.com/NnzJu1hrhn
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) October 23, 2020
LIT’S 2020 JUDICIAL CORRUPTION NOTICE Zoom link 10/22/20 Motion for Consent judgment @Ocwen_Help v. Fl., styled OCWEN v. CFPB, hearing at 1:00 p.m. before LYIN’ JUDGE KEN MARRA, S.D. Fl. Audio or visual recording of Zoom hearing is strictly prohibited. https://t.co/tzmC9EK8Ka pic.twitter.com/zulJycRMt2
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) October 23, 2020