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Bakersfield attorney accused of misappropriating over $350,000 is being investigated by BPD

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Posted at 4:03 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 14:57:44-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A former Bakersfield attorney who is accused of misappropriating over $350,000 is now being investigated by the Bakersfield Police Department, according to court filings with the Kern County Superior Court.

According to the California State Bar, family attorney Barbara McDaniel Harris was ordered inactive in July 2019 after a couple she represented in a divorce filed a complaint in 2018. She is no longer eligible to practice law in California.

In the complaint, the couple said that Harris was in-charge of money the couple received from selling property. Harris was meant to disburse the money to each spouse and maintain records of the client trust account.

According to records from the State Bar website, on Sept. 29, 2006, the account held funds of $888,510.64 from the property sale.

The court records show that over the next several months, different amounts of money were disbursed from the account. For example, on Oct. 2 2006, the court ordered $20,000 be paid to a Community Visa card obligation, $40,000 be paid to a personal loan of one of the spouses, and $100,000 be paid directly to each spouse.

The court records show that after every disbursement, there was record of how much money should remain in the account.

For example, with the combined disbursements from Oct. 2006 to December 28, 2006, the account should have a total of $445,813.40. The actual remaining amount from $469,434,23.

According to the court records, by Jan 30, 2009 the balance that should have remained in the account was supposed to be $375,813.40. The actual amount was $174,908.88, a difference of over $200,000.

On May 21, 2009, the court ordered Harris to disburse $50,000 to each spouse. According to bank records the account only had a balance of $84,805.38 and was unable to satisfy the court-ordered disbursement.

Harris also failed to provide monthly statements of the account to opposing counsel within 30 days as ordered.

The State Bar found that Harris misappropriated a total of $368,000 from her clients' fund.

"Severe discipline is especially warranted when an attorney deliberately takes a client's fund, intending to keep them permanently, and answers the client's inquiries with lies and evasions," wrote Judge Yvette D. Roland in her order.

According to court filings from BPD, investigators are working to find out what happened to the missing funds.

23ABC reached out to Harris for comment but have not heard back yet.