IN THE MATTER OF VSB DOCKET: 01-000-2538
GENE PIERO BELARDI
On May 25, 2001, this matter came on for hearing upon the Show Cause Order and Order of Suspension and Hearing, dated April 27, 2001, before a duly convened panel of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board consisting of John A. Dezio, Acting Chair, Werner H. Quasebarth, lay member, Theophlise L. Twitty, Deborah A. J. Wilson, and D. Stan Barnhill.
The Respondent, Gene Piero Belardi, did not appear in person, nor was he represented by counsel. Noel D. Sengel, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, appeared as counsel for the Virginia State Bar. Tracy J. Stroh of Chandler & Halasz, P. O. Box 9349, Richmond, Virginia 23227, telephone (804) 730-1222, transcribed the proceedings.
The purpose of the hearing was for the Board to determine whether to order suspension or revocation of the Respondent's license as a result of Respondent's three felony convictions entered by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Bar initially introduced into evidence an affidavit by Diana L. Balch, custodian of the membership records for the Bar, which affirmed that Respondent was an active member of the Bar. The Bar thereafter introduced into evidence a plea agreement entered into by the Respondent in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia whereby the Respondent plead guilty to three violations of 18 U.S.C. ß 1001, knowingly and willfully making material false written statements on three occasions to the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"). Such violations constituted three separate felonies under applicable federal law. The Respondent admitted in the plea agreement that he knowingly made the fraudulent and misleading statements in question in the context of his representation of a client seeking to retain a permit granted by the FCC.
In Respondent's absence from the hearing, the Bar introduced into evidence a letter written by Respondent to the Board indicating that he was unable to attend the hearing and asking the Board to consider certain statements during its deliberations. In particular, the Respondent asked the Board to consider the following:
1. The federal judge who accepted Respondent's plea acknowledged from the bench that Respondent did not personally benefit from the filing of the false statements.
2. No parties were financially harmed by the false statements.
3. The FCC and the federal government suffered no financial losses.
4. The Respondent was not ordered to pay restitution.
5. The Board of Professional Responsibility for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has held that filing a false statement with a federal agency does not inherently involve moral turpitude.
In addition, the Respondent admitted in his letter to the Bar that in making the false statements he "wrongfully put the interests of my client... before my professional and ethical duties."
Respondent provided a copy of the transcript of his sentencing hearing with his letter. The transcript reveals that Respondent's criminal attorney acknowledged that entry of the plea agreement would result in loss of the Respondent's license to practice law.
Based on the exhibits presented during the hearing, the Board finds by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent upon entry of the guilty plea was convicted of three felonies involving false and fraudulent representations in the course of his representation of a client. Upon such finding, the Board ORDERS, pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13E(2)(b) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, that the license of the Respondent, Gene P. Belardi, should be, and is hereby, revoked, effective May 25, 2001.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, pursuant to the provisions of Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13(k)(1) of the aforesaid rules, that the Respondent shall forthwith give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of his revocation of his license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia to all clients for whom he is currently handling matters, and to all opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation. The Respondent shall also make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters in his care in conformity with the wishes of his clients. Respondent shall give such notices within fourteen (14) days of the effective date of the revocation order and make such arrangements as are required herein within forty-five (45) days of the effective date of the revocation order. The Respondent shall furnish proof to the Bar within sixty (60) days of the effective date of the revocation order that such notices have been timely given and such arrangements for disposition of matters made, all issues concerning adequacy of the notices and arrangements required herein shall be determined by the Disciplinary Board; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Respondent shall furnish true copies of all of the notice letters sent to all persons notified of the revocation with original return receipts for such notices to the Clerk of the Disciplinary System on or before July 24, 2001; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Disciplinary System send an attested and true copy of this Opinion and Order to the Respondent, Gene P. Belardi, by certified mail, return receipt requested, at his address of record 131 Minor Road, Sterling, VA 20165-5669, and to Noel D. Sengel, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar, 707 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, Virginia 23219-2800.
The Clerk of the Disciplinary System shall assess costs pursuant to Part 6, Section IV, paragraph 13(K)(10) of the aforesaid rules.
ENTERED this Order this Day of June 2001.
VIRGINIA STATE BAR DISCIPLINARY BOARD
John A. Dezio, Acting Chair