State Bar files complaint against Suffolk attorney

Published 10:43 pm Friday, November 5, 2010

The Virginia State Bar has filed a complaint against a Suffolk attorney on allegations of misconduct after they say he directed money that should have gone to the law firm where he was employed to his personal account, instead.

Edward Ruffin House, who was fired from Stallings and Bischoff in January, is accused of violating the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and faces losing his license to practice law.

House first moved to Stallings and Bischoff from another local law firm in July 2007. He frequently served as court-appointed attorney for defendants who did not have enough money to hire an attorney.

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According to the complaint, House began funneling state money to himself in October 2009. The money was supposed to be reimbursements from the state to Stallings and Bischoff for the court-appointed work he did. Instead, he began completing state vouchers listing himself as the payee, along with his Social Security number and home address, according to the complaint.

House was fired on Jan. 15 when someone at Stallings and Bischoff learned of the alleged fraud, the complaint says. On Jan. 18, he met with Stallings and Bischoff and returned about $11,000 in cash and $19,000 in state-issued checks. According to the complaint, he also admitted he had about $60,000 worth of state vouchers he had not yet submitted for reimbursement and had already spent about $5,000 that had come to him.

According to the complaint, “his intent was to hold back funds from a good month to make up for later months in which his fee receipts might be down.”

Shortly after the meeting, the complaint alleges, House sent Stallings and Bischoff a personal check for $20,000 along with a note asking for forgiveness and expressing his hope Stallings and Bischoff would “not involve any other parties.”

House is accused of breaking professional conduct rules regarding safekeeping of property and misconduct.

In a response filed with the court, House either denied or said he did not have enough evidence to confirm or deny the charges. He requested a three-judge panel to hear any further proceedings in the case.

A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5.