A disbarred Edgartown attorney has been charged with unlawfully practicing law and taking thousands of dollars from an accident victim who hired him to perform legal services.
John C. McBride, 62, was arraigned last week on charges stemming from his alleged legal representation of David Silva, 48, also of Edgartown, who suffered injuries in a May bicycling accident and sought damages from the town.
Mr. McBride is alleged to have accepted a settlement check from the town’s insurance company, forged Mr. Silva’s signature and kept the check in his own bank account for weeks without telling Mr. Silva.
At an Oct. 7 arraignment, Mr. McBride was charged with the unauthorized practice of law and as a removed attorney practicing law. He also was charged with forgery of a check, larceny over $250 and uttering a promissory note falsely endorsed.
Mr. McBride had sought to postpone his Edgartown district court arraignment, asserting in a motion that “it may lead to a resolution of the case.” But that bid was rejected, not guilty pleas were entered and a pretrial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 21.
In an interview this week, Mr. McBride said he was only helping a friend and always intended to provide the insurance money to Mr. Silva. “This is a total misunderstanding, and no more,” he said. “He’s a good guy. I know his wife, his kids.”
According to a police report filed in the case, Mr. Silva hired Mr. McBride, who initially advised him he could either accept a $5,000 settlement offer or file a lawsuit and possibly collect up to $40,000. He also accepted $425 to seal Mr. Silva’s criminal record of driving offenses in Florida so that it wouldn’t come up in a potential lawsuit, the report said.
The police report suggests that Mr. McBride discussed a fee agreement that would amount to one third of the amount Mr. Silva received, a typical contingency fee for lawyers.
After Mr. Silva decided that he would seek the higher amount through a lawsuit, Mr. McBride then advised him to take the $5,000 instead after consulting several attorneys, court records said. (The insurance company said it could pay no more than $5,000 because of a state cap on cases alleging roadway defects.) Mr. Silva then agreed to sign an August 16 letter accepting the offer.
According to Mr. Silva, more than a month went by, during which Mr. McBride assured him he would handle the matter and that the money “would be coming soon.”
“I couldn’t stop feeling that there was something wrong,” Mr. Silva said in a written statement to police, and called the insurance company on Sept. 27. He was told a check had been mailed to Mr. McBride’s post office box on August 17 and had cleared on Sept. 9.
The check had been endorsed with the signature “David Silva” on it and “Atty John McBride” signed below it, according to police. Mr. Silva said “he had never seen the check and obviously his signature had been forged,” the report said.
The next day, Mr. Silva received a text message from Mr. McBride “stating that he was still waiting for the check.” At that point, Mr. Silva asked police to pursue charges against Mr. McBride and seek restitution.
Mr. McBride said that anything but passing along the money wouldn’t make sense, since he has been friends with Mr. Silva and his family for years, lives in the same town and ultimately wants to get his law license back. He filed a motion to dismiss the case yesterday.
“There was never any intent by me to take money that didn’t belong to me,” said Mr. McBride. He said he had told Mr. Silva’s lawyer that Mr. Silva “could have the money anytime he wanted.”
Mr. McBride was ordered disbarred in 2005 by Supreme Judicial Court Justice Martha Sosman for violating a number of rules governing the conduct of lawyers, including the misappropriation of client funds. That decision was affirmed in June 2007 by the full Supreme Judicial Court, which has ultimate authority over lawyer discipline.