Swindled former inmate awarded his lawyer’s house

Charlene Sakoda
Odd News

“This is sort of what goes around comes around,” Attorney Paul Petruzzi told the Sun Sentinel. Petruzzi is Patrick Coulton’s current lawyer who helped his client recoup $275,000 that was taken from him by his former lawyers.

View photos

In March 2008, Coulton was arrested on federal drug and money-laundering charges for smuggling cocaine and marijuana. With representation by attorneys Emmanuel Roy and Peter Mayas, Coulton admitted guilt and was sentenced to 14 years in prison under a plea agreement that prosecutors would recommend a reduced sentence. However, the two lawyers never contacted their client again. When prosecutors tried to contact Roy and Mayas to reduce Coulton’s sentence, his lawyers did not respond.

“They had no intention of serving my interests. They were more or less lining their pockets in the process rather than defending me and they would just go to trial, get me sentenced, and then after that they dropped me as a client. And I wasn’t able to talk to them after that,” Coulton told the paper.

View photos

Paul Petruzzi was then referred to Coulton and he took over the case despite knowing that his family was unable to afford his services because of the deep financial debt to Roy and Mayas. After getting Mr. Coulton’s sentence reduced by half he looked further into Coulton’s situation and found that his former lawyers had been overcharging him by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Petruzzi found that, “They used their profession and their education as a license to steal.” Coulton was charged $275,000 for services that Petruzzi estimated should have cost less than $50,000. Roy and Mayas reportedly took Coulton’s townhome, tens of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry, and a Porsche Cayenne. They even charged him for Roy and his wife to fly to England to seize the $23,000 wedding and engagement ring of his wife at the time.

After several years of investigative court hearings, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff ruled that Roy and Mayas were not qualified or legally permitted to practice in federal court in South Florida and they took cash and property from Coulton for minimal work. The Sun Sentinel reported that Judge Turnoff wrote, “Roy’s and Mayas’ conduct was ‘disgusting, abhorrent’ and the ‘most outrageous’ he’d seen in 25 years on the bench.” U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard then ruled that the two would have to repay the $275,000 to the Coulton family, with interest every day that it is unpaid. They were also ordered to pay $100,000 in legal fees to Petruzzi for his four years of work, even though Petruzzi said he didn’t want to be paid for his work for Coulton.

Mayas is now suspended from practicing law, and surrendered his home and a $5000 car as the start of his repayment. Roy was permanently disbarred and began serving a seven-year federal prison term (more time than his former client Coulton) for unrelated mortgage fraud convictions in New York.

View photos

Mr. Coulton was recently released from federal prison and just this week moved into Peter Mayas’ three-bedroom Miramar, Florida house. Though he understands that others may feel justice has been served, Coulton does not feel like he’s in a position to judge others nor to enjoy the misfortune of others. He said, "Even though they threw me under the bus … There's a certain sense of unease about acquiring a house in this fashion…I almost feel sorry for them."

Petruzzi has other thoughts about the former attorneys. "Guys like them are the reason people hate lawyers," said Petruzzi, “I took it personally because this is what I do. This is, you know, this is what lawyers are supposed to do is help people, defend people. Lawyers have a crappy reputation because of idiots like these two guys.”

View photos

Video and more info: Sun Sentinel