The Supreme Court of Florida on Friday formally revoked George Castrataro’s license to practice law in the State of Florida. A revocation is tantamount to disbarment.
Faced with Florida Bar disciplinary proceedings against him for the misappropriation and theft of his client’s funds, which would lead to disbarment, Castrataro petitioned the Supreme Court to permit him to forego a trial, and instead voluntarily surrender his own license.
The ruling Friday by the Supreme Court allowed him to do so, but it came at a nominal price. Aside from paying the Court $9,000 in costs, Castrataro had to agree to pay back any monies the Florida Bar’s client security funds paid out to his victims for his misconduct.
The fund attempts to restore victims for the misappropriation of funds from a lawyer’s wrongdoing, but it only covers a nominal amount of any such loss.
It may be the least of Castrataro’s problems now. His alleged thefts led to his arrest by the Fort Lauderdale police. On June 8, he was charged with grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud his own clients of more than $600,000, both first degree felonies. If convicted, Castrataro faces a minimum sentence of 42 months in jail.
Victims of Castrataro can sue him directly, or hope that if he is convicted, a court will enter an order making him pay restitution. However, he is barred from the practice of law.
The June arrest culminated a three-month spiral where Castrataro had first been held in contempt of court and was then the subject of an emergency order of suspension from the Supreme Court for egregious misconduct that was “causing great public harm.” It was a precursor of what was to come.
Castrataro remains at liberty on a $32,500 bond, with the first appearance in Broward Circuit Court before the Honorable Judge Edward Merrigan in early July.
Castrataro’s Fort Lauderdale based law practice was focused on bankruptcy and estate planning. He had distinguished himself in the LGBT community by serving on the board of directors of numerous charitable agencies, including Care Resource. He also launched an unsuccessful bid for city commission in Fort Lauderdale two years ago.
A New York native, prior to opening his law practice in 2006, he had previously worked extensively in the public health field with the Florida Department of Health and the American Red Cross.