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Disciplinary Counsel v. Alo

Supreme Court of Ohio

June 15, 2017

Disciplinary Counsel
v.
Alo.

          Submitted March 1, 2017

         On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2015-057.

          Scott J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, and Donald M. Scheetz, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Mohammed Noure Alo, Attorney Registration No. 0078288, whose last known business address was in Columbus, Ohio, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2004. In this default proceeding, the Board of Professional Conduct recommends that we permanently disbar him. For the reasons explained below, we accept the board's recommendation.

         Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} Alo's license is currently subject to several ongoing suspensions. In June 2014, we suspended his license on an interim basis after receiving notice that he had been convicted of a felony for his involvement in a bribery and kickback scheme at the office of the treasurer of the state of Ohio. In re Alo, 139 Ohio St.3d 1245, 2014-Ohio-2808, 12 N.E.3d 1223. In a separate disciplinary proceeding, we imposed an interim default suspension in January 2015 under Gov.Bar R. V(14)(B)(1) due to his failure to answer a complaint charging him with professional misconduct in numerous client matters unrelated to his federal conviction. Disciplinary Counsel v. Alo, 141 Ohio St.3d 1252, 2015-Ohio-16, 24 N.E.3d 1172. In August 2015, we ordered that the suspension be converted into an indefinite suspension under Gov.Bar R. V(14)(E)(1) after he failed to respond to an order to show cause. Disciplinary Counsel v. Alo, 143 Ohio St.3d 1284, 2015-Ohio-3258, 40 N.E.3d 1144. And in November 2015, we suspended him for failing to register as an attorney for the 2015-2017 biennium. In re Attorney Registration Suspension of Alo, 143 Ohio St.3d 1509, 2015-Ohio-4567, 39 N.E.3d 1277.

         {¶ 3} In October 2015, relator, disciplinary counsel, filed the underlying complaint based on the activities that led to Alo's criminal conviction. After Alo failed to respond, the board certified his default to this court, and in January 2016, we imposed an interim default suspension. Disciplinary Counsel v. Alo, 145 Ohio St.3d 1244, 2016-Ohio-197, 49 N.E.3d 307. Relator timely moved to remand the case to the board for the purpose of seeking Alo's permanent disbarment. See Gov.Bar R. V(14)(D) (permitting a relator, within 180 days of the entry of an interim default suspension, to file a motion with this court to have the case remanded to the board for the purpose of seeking disbarment). We granted relator's request in August 2016, 146 Ohio St.3d 1485, 2016-Ohio-5529, 57 N.E.3d 1166, and on remand, the board appointed a master to hear relator's motion for default, see Gov.Bar R. V(14)(F)(2)(a).

         {¶ 4} Based on relator's sworn evidence, the master found that Alo had committed the charged misconduct and recommended disbarment. Pursuant to Gov.Bar R. V(14)(F)(2)(a)(iii), the board issued a report adopting the master's findings and recommended sanction.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 5} In August 2013, the federal government charged Alo with conspiring with Amer Ahmad, a former chief financial officer and deputy treasurer at the state treasurer's office and Alo's close personal friend, and others to commit bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering. The government alleged that between 2009 and 2011, Alo helped devise and participated in a criminal scheme in which Ahmad used his role at the treasurer's office to improperly secure lucrative public brokerage deals for Douglas Hampton-Ahmad's personal financial advisor and high-school classmate-who, in return, paid Ahmad, Alo, and other individuals and entities kickbacks from the commissions that he had been paid on the deals. According to the indictment, Hampton received over $3.2 million in commissions during the conspiracy and funneled part of that money to Ahmad and others, including Alo.

         {¶ 6} In December 2013, Alo entered into a plea agreement and pled guilty to aiding and abetting depriving the citizens of Ohio of the honest services of a public official through wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2, 1343, and 1346. At his plea hearing, he acknowledged that Ahmad had provided Hampton with lucrative public business and that on one occasion, Ahmad had directed Hampton to pay Alo $123, 622.50 for alleged legal representation and lobbying work, although Alo had not performed any such services for Hampton. Alo further acknowledged that he had instructed Hampton to wire transfer the funds into his personal bank account and that Hampton had done so. Alo therefore admitted to participating in a scheme to defraud the public of its right to the honest services of a public official and to carrying out that scheme through interstate wire communication. In November 2014, a federal judge sentenced him to serve 48 months in prison, complete a three-year term of supervised release, forfeit $123, 622.50, and pay a $100 assessment and found him jointly and severally liable with other participants in the scheme to repay the money involved.

         {¶ 7} Based on this conduct, the board found that relator established by clear and convincing evidence that Alo violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(b) (prohibiting a lawyer from committing an illegal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty or trustworthiness), 8.4(c) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(h) (prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice law). The board expressly determined that Alo's misconduct was sufficiently egregious to warrant the finding that he violated Prof.Cond.R. 8.4(h). See Disciplinary Counsel v. Bricker, 137 Ohio St.3d 35, 2013-Ohio-3998, 997 N.E.2d 500, ¶ 21.

         {¶ 8} We agree with the board's ...


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