Iowa lawyer who admitted stealing money from his employer and clients loses his license

By: - June 3, 2021 11:55 am

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a state law barring abortion providers from accessing federal money to teach sex education. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Judicial Branch)

An eastern Iowa lawyer who two years ago admitted embezzling money from his employer, and who now admits improperly taking money from his clients, has had his Iowa law license revoked by the state’s Supreme Court.

According to the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board, attorney Curtis W. Den Beste, formerly of Cedar Rapids, took money from clients, transferred money from client trust accounts into his own checking account, then neglected his cases and lied to clients about the true status of those cases.

“Ultimately, Den Beste abandoned his practice and simply kept client funds that had not been earned,” the board said in a recent filing with the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa.

The board said that because a “convincing preponderance of the evidence” established that Den Beste deliberately converted client funds to his own use, it is unnecessary for the Supreme Court to “dwell on” the other alleged violations he had allegedly committed.

In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, Den Beste, now living in Nevada, admitted that in 2018, he took $2,500 from an Iowa man named Mickey Harris to represent him in a guardianship case.

“I did not file anything on behalf of Harris in the guardianship matter, and I did no work on the case,” Den Beste stated, adding that he never provided Harris with a refund. “After several weeks, Harris asked me about the status of the case, and I responded that I had taken care of it, despite the fact that I had not filed anything.”

Den Beste has consented to the Iowa Supreme Court’s revocation of his Iowa law license. Under Iowa court rules, he will become eligible for readmission after five years.

In 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended Den Beste’s license for a minimum of four months after he admitted accepting thousands of dollars in cash from clients and keeping the funds for himself instead of depositing the money in the general account of the law firm where he worked.

At that time, Chief Justice Mark Cady, writing for the majority of the court, said Den Beste had committed theft, but noted that the court typically treats theft from an attorney’s employer less harshly than theft from an attorney’s own clients.

In a partial dissent, Justice David Wiggins wrote that Den Beste’s actions amounted to felony second-degree theft — the sort of offense, he said, that often leads to a license revocation.

“Plain and simple, Den Beste admitted to stealing someone else’s money several times,” Wiggins wrote. “The state would almost surely charge a non-lawyer who embezzled over $9,000 from his or her employer with theft, but this attorney, who stipulated that he embezzled over $9,000 from his employer, avoids criminal punishment and this court gives him merely an insignificant disciplinary sanction.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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