In the Matter of Joenathan Shelly Chaplin, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001470
Submitted August 9, 2016
M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Julie Martino,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office
of Disciplinary Counsel.
M. Watson, III, of Ballard & Watson, Attorneys at Law, of
West Columbia, for Respondent.
attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of
Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) have entered into an Agreement for
Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the
Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in
Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR).
In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents
to a definite suspension of not less than nine months and no
more than three years.Respondent requests that the suspension be
made retroactive to the date of interim suspension,
understands that if the Court declines to apply the sanction
retroactively, the validity or enforceability of the
agreement is not affected. ODC does not oppose the request.
Respondent agrees to pay the costs incurred by ODC and the
Commission on Lawyer Conduct in investigating and prosecuting
this matter within thirty days of discipline being rendered.
As a further condition of discipline, respondent agrees to
complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Trust Account
School and Law Office Management School within one year of
reinstatement. Respondent understands that prior to
reinstatement he must also complete the Legal Ethics and
Practice Program Ethics School as required by Rule 33(f),
RLDE. We accept the Agreement and suspend respondent from the
practice of law in this state for one year, retroactive to
the date of his interim suspension. The facts, as set forth
in the Agreement, are as follows.
represented a client who was indicted by the U.S.
Attorney's Office for trafficking. However, respondent
was relieved as counsel for the client after the U.S.
Attorney's Office informed the federal court that
respondent was being investigated for money laundering in
connection with payments made by the client and other
criminal clients to respondent.
of the investigation, federal agents requested respondent
provide records of payments made to him by criminal clients.
Respondent provided the requested records; however, the
records indicated he had received cash payments for legal
fees from multiple clients in amounts greater than $10, 000.
When questioned by federal agents, respondent denied knowing
that he was required by the Internal Revenue Service to file
a Form 8300 when the aggregate amount received from a client
exceeded $10, 000 for one transaction, such as legal
representation. He stated he thought the form was only
required for single payments over $10, 000. However,
respondent did know about the reporting requirement and
therefore, his assertion was untruthful.
was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001 by knowingly
and willfully making "a materially false, fictitious,
and fraudulent statement and representation in a matter
within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch of the
Government of the United States; to wit: he told a Special
Agent from the Department of the Treasury that he was not
aware of the reporting requirements of Form 8300."
Respondent pled guilty and was sentenced to three years'
probation, with electronic monitoring for six months. On
December 9, 2015, respondent's motion for early
termination of parole was granted, and he has now fully
satisfied all conditions of his criminal conviction.
admits that his conduct violates the following Rules of
Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 4.1(b)(a lawyer
shall not in the course of representing a client make a false
statement of material fact to a third person); Rule 8.4(b)(it
is misconduct to commit a criminal act that reflects
adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or
fitness as a lawyer); Rule 8.4(d)(it is misconduct for a
lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit, or misrepresentation); and Rule 8.4(e)(it is
misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct prejudicial to
the administration of justice).
represented a client at various times for criminal charges.
Two fee agreements between respondent and the client
contained the following provision: "Client acknowledges
and agrees that if balance of above agreement is not paid in
full as agreed upon, the Law Office of [respondent] will
collect by garnishment and/or a lien on any and all
client's future tax refunds and/or wages."
Respondent admits he does not have the legal authority to
garnish wages or tax returns in South Carolina. Another fee
agreement between the two referenced payment for
representation by a third party, but only referenced the
identity of the payor and amount paid, without reference to
the scope of representation provided in exchange for the
admits his conduct violates the following Rules of
Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.5(b)(the scope
of representation shall be communicated to the client before
or within a reasonable time after commencing representation);
Rule 1.8(f)(a lawyer shall not accept compensation for
representing a client from one other than the client unless
the client gives informed consent, there is no interference
with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment