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Ethical Dilemma

Wednesday, February 1, 2006, 21:41 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you see a story like this that shows there is no limit to the depths to which some people will sink.

David Colvin stole seven paintings, worth millions of dollars, from a private home back in 1978. For reasons unknown, he hid them in the attic of his lawyer, Robert Mardirosian, supposedly without Mardirosian’s knowledge. The lawyer “found” them not long thereafter, by which time his client had died.

Here’s where the story starts to sound like a bad lawyer joke. Mardirosian knew Colvin had stolen the artwork. So what do you suppose he did upon finding it in his home?

    (a) He returned it immediately to the owner.
    (b) He turned it over to law enforcement authorities for them to handle.(c) He sought the advice of the state bar’s ethic committee.(d) None of the above.

The answer, as you might suspect, is (d).

His first instinct, Mardirosian said, was to return the paintings for reward money that he thought would be put up by the paintings’ insurer. But he abandoned that plan after learning that not even the most valuable of the paintings, the Cezanne, had been insured. In 1988, he said, he moved them from Massachusetts to Monaco and then to a bank in Switzerland for safekeeping while he figured out a plan for returning them to [owner Michael] Bakwin for a finder’s fee or reward of 10 percent of their value.

[ . . . ]

“I know some things don’t look good here, but I believe I have a legitimate case to make,” said Mardirosian. “I could have sold these a dozen times, but never did. My whole intent was to find a way to get them back to the owner in return for a 10 percent commission.”

Commission?!? I’m not an expert in criminal law, but isn’t it illegal to possess stolen merchandise, never mind try to make money from it? And why in the world would a lawyer think he should earn a reward or finder’s fee or a commission from his client’s crime?

Really, some lawyers…

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