An Ashley County attorney was arrested last week on charges he misappropriated $100,000 from a client.
Dustyn Codie Martin of Hamburg was arrested last week on charges of theft of property and obtaining a signature by deception, but has since been released.
An affidavit filed by Ashley County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Josh Polluck alleged that on or about Oct. 15 a former client of Martin’s went into the ACSO to file a report regarding missing property.
The report stated that the victim had paid Martin to represent her in a divorce that was filed in 2016. After the divorce was final on July 21, 2016, the victim said that Martin inquired about property or assets that she had not listed on her bank statements, checking, savings, or any cash. The victim told investigators that she told Martin about $100,000 cash that she had stored in a safety deposit box at a bank in Monticello and that her attorney advised her that she needed to remove it and give it to him to store for her.
The victim also alleged that Martin told her that the money was not to be discussed as he could get disbarred for holding it for her.
The victim stated that she and Martin drove to Monticello in separate vehicles, and after she retrieved the money from the bank, she delivered it to Martin in Fred’s parking lot.
Martin allegedly put the money in a briefcase and told her that he was carrying it to his lock box or safe, the affadavit said.
The victim also reported that at a later date she acquired another $8,000 or $9,000 and entrusted Martin with those funds as well.
According to the victim, Martin became more and more difficult to reach, and when she showed up at his office in June and demanded her money, they instead entered into a trust agreement and signed documents accordingly.
The investigator’s report said that in September, the victim wrote two letters to Martin and attempted to hand deliver them, but Martin’s secretaries reportedly would never allow her to meet with him.
The victim then hired another attorney, Robert Bridewell, to finish her divorce and told Polluck that her new attorney had also made several attempts to collect her money, the report said. The victim stated that Bridewell had arranged for Martin to deliver $100,000 to the Chicot County Sheriff’s Department on Oct. 12.
The alleged victim reported that Bridewell was given three receipts from Sheriff Ronald Nichols for the amount of $30,000, which she was told was delivered in three separate envelopes that each contained $10,000 cash. The victim also reported that she had not been to Chicot County to pick up the money yet. The victim stated that the arrangement was made at the Chicot County Sheriff’s office because Martin refused to bring the cash to the ACSD.
Pollluck’s report stated that Bridewell did confirm that he had arranged for Martin to deliver the money to Chicot County Sheriff’s office.
Bridewell reported to Polluck that on Oct. 9 Martin delivered a check from the Martin Law Firm PLLC Arkansas IOLTA account at Southern Bancorp, but Bridewell told Martin that a check would not be acceptable.
Bridewell also reported to Polluck that Martin had stated he would deliver the cash that same day, but never did.
Bridewell also confirmed that $30,000 in cash had been delivered to the Chicot County Sheriff’s office.
Martin was arrested and booked into the ACSD Oct. 16, but was released on bond after a few hours.
A case was filed Oct. 18 in the Drew County Sheriff’s office.
The letters that the victim wrote to Martin, a copy of the check and a copy of the agreement that the two entered into have all been filed at the Drew County clerk’s office in Monticello.
According to the criminal information filed by the 10th Judicial District’s Prosecutor Thomas Deen, on or about June 1, 2016 through August 30, 2018 Martin did make an unauthorized transfer of property an unnamed victim valued in excess of $25,000 or did knowlingly obtain such property by deception with purpose to deprive said owner thereof.
According to the Arkansas code, such an offense is punishable as a Class B felony by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than twenty years in prison and a fine not exceeding $15,000.
The information sheet also claims that on or about Aug. 30, Martin did obtain by deception the signing or execution of a written instrument by an unnamed victim affecting the victim’s pecuniary interest.
According to the Arkansas code, the offense is punishable as a Class D felony by imprisonment for not more than six years and by a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Martin’s attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said that the situation is simply a misunderstanding and that his client has not broken the law.
“My client is not guilty and we plan to defend this case vigorously,” Rosenzweig said.