Lawyer disbarred for misappropriating money from woman’s estate

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A longtime Winston-Salem lawyer was disbarred last month for allegedly misappropriating money from a Forsyth County woman’s estate and providing false information to a Forsyth County clerk.

Billy D. Friende Jr. was disbarred for violating the rules of professional conduct, according to an order filed Jan. 27 with the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the N.C. State Bar.

Friende is accused of misappropriating more than $28,000 from a trust account set up for the woman’s estate and misrepresenting information about the account to clerks at the county courthouse. He is also accused of falsely reporting attorney fees he said he was entitled to for his services.

No criminal charges have been filed against him. Friende has about a month to surrender his law license.

“It was an attorney fee dispute and all of the beneficiaries got what they were entitled to,” Friende said last week when reached at his office. “It was an issue of the amount of the attorney fees.”

According to the order, Friende decided to consent to the disbarment rather than go to a hearing and defend himself against the charges.

“I didn’t want to dispute it,” he said.

Friende was hired in 2005 to handle the estate of Alice Jackson, according to a complaint filed with the State Bar last June. Jackson died July 28, 2005, the complaint said.

Brenda D. Sloan, who was named in Jackson’s will as one of the executors to her estate, hired Friende to help her open and administer Jackson’s estate, the complaint said. Jackson had left her estate, including money in an investment account, to five charitable institutions.

Friende opened up a trust account for the estate and transferred a total of $257,500 into that account, the complaint said. Then, according to the complaint, Friende took money, sometimes as much as $5,000, from the account without Sloan’s permission several times over a year. He took more than $28,000 from the account, the complaint said.

Friende then misrepresented the amount of money in the account to Sloan and to clerks at the Forsyth County courthouse, the complaint said.

He also falsely reported an attorney fee of $8,800 and showed a disbursement of an additional attorney fee of $29,144, the complaint said. According to the complaint, Friende had not performed any legal services that would have qualified him for an attorney fee of more than $8,800.

Sloan said she did not know about the allegations against Friende until an investigator with the State Bar called her. She said she had turned over the estate to Friende and thought it was closed.

“I was more angry than anything else,” she said. “I trusted him to do the right thing. If I had been more knowledgeable, this would not have happened.”

NOTE: This story was written by Michael Hewlett and originally appeared in The Winston-Salem Journal.