News and Information
March 30, 2022

Clients’ Protection Fund Board Pays $38,810.00 on Twelve Petitions

The Virginia State Bar Clients’ Protection Fund Board authorized payments totaling $38,810.00 in reimbursement to former clients of seven Virginia attorneys at its January 28, 2022, meeting.

The board awarded a $1,000 payment for unearned attorney’s fees in an employer/employee relations matter. The board found that the attorney, OlaDipo Akinwunmi AkinDeko of Springfield, did work sufficient to earn some, but not all, of the $2,000 fee paid by the client. Shortly after filing a lawsuit in the matter, the client was unable to contact the lawyer regarding the case, and the board found that he did no further work in the matter. AkinDeko’s license was suspended for nine months effective October 2021.

The board approved a payment of $6,575 to a former client of Ernest Paul Francis of Rockville, Maryland. The board found that Francis received a settlement check in a civil matter but never transferred any of those funds to the client. Francis’s license was revoked by consent in March 2021.

The board awarded a payment of $600 to a former client of Charles John Covati of Roanoke. The board found that Covati never performed any work in assisting a client in obtaining a waiver of VASAP requirements associated with a DUI conviction. Covati’s license to practice law in Virginia was revoked by consent in August 2021.

Six former clients of Jonathan Preston Fisher of Blacksburg were awarded $2,000, $5,000, $3,000, $5,000, $5,750, and $1,750 by the board. One client was awarded $3,000 for partial reimbursement of a $6,000 fee for a criminal law matter in which Fisher failed to appear for a pretrial hearing after delaying the case several times. Another client received $2,000 as a full reimbursement for work that was not completed by Fisher in a reckless driving case. The remaining four former clients were reimbursed for unearned fees in DUI cases. Fisher’s license was revoked in May 2021.

A petitioner received $4,035 as full reimbursement for fees paid to Anna Hughes Myers of Norfolk. The board found that Myers did no significant work for the client in two cases: a divorce proceeding and a lawsuit against the City of Newport News. Myers’s license was suspended for two years effective August 2020.

The board awarded $2,100 as full reimbursement to a former client of John B. Russell Jr. of Bon Air in a loan modification matter. After being retained to provide mortgage modification services, Russell took no action on the matter and deposited funds from the client into a private account rather than a trust account. The Russell firm did not actually have a loan modification division as advertised and instead outsourced the loan modification work to a private company in a scheme that allowed Russell to collect unearned fees. Neither Russell nor any entity with which he was affiliated provided significant work in the matter. Russell’s license was suspended for two years effective November 2019, further suspended in 2020 and, finally, revoked in October 2020.

A petitioner was awarded $2,000, representing full fees paid to Randall Sousa of Richmond for preparing a deed of transfer of joint title in which the board found Sousa had performed no work of value and did so under a suspended license. Sousa failed to communicate with the client for over three months regarding the deed and, nearly two weeks after his suspension went into effect, had the client sign a quitclaim deed that was never agreed to by the grantor. This deed was never filed. After several attempts to contact Sousa for a status update, the client learned from another attorney that Sousa had subsequently been disbarred. Sousa’s license was revoked in August 2021.

Docket Number

Lawyer’s Name

City of Record

Amount Paid

Type of Case

22-555-003336

OlaDipo Akinwunmi AkinDeko

Springfield, VA

$1,000.00

Unearned Fee/Employer/Employee Relations

21-555-003309

Ernest Paul Francis

Rockville, MD

$6,575.00

Unearned Fee/Civil Law

22-555-003328

Charles John Covati

Roanoke, VA

$600.00

Unearned Fee/Family Law

21-555-003326

Jonathan Preston Fisher

Blacksburg, VA

$2,000.00

Unearned Fee/Traffic Offenses

22-555-003325

Jonathan Preston Fisher 

Blacksburg, VA

$5,000.00

Unearned Fee/Traffic Offenses 

22-555-003339

Jonathan Preston Fisher 

Blacksburg, VA 

$3,000.00

Unearned Fee/Criminal Law

22-555-003342

Jonathan Preston Fisher 

Blacksburg, VA 

$5,000.00

Unearned Fee/Traffic Offenses

22-555-003343

Jonathan Preston Fisher 

Blacksburg, VA 

$5,750.00

Unearned Fee/Traffic Offenses

22-555-003347

Jonathan Preston Fisher 

Blacksburg, VA 

$1,750.00

Unearned Fee/Traffic Offenses

21-555-003298

Anna Hughes Myers

Norfolk, VA

$4,035.00

Unearned Fee/Criminal Law

21-555-003315

John B. Russell Jr.

Bon Air, VA

$2,100.00

Unearned Fee/Real Estate

22-555-003340

Randall Sousa

Richmond, VA

$2,000.00

Unearned Fee/Real Estate

The Clients’ Protection Fund was created by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1976 to reimburse persons who suffer a quantifiable financial loss because of dishonest conduct by a Virginia lawyer whose law license has been suspended or revoked for disciplinary reasons, or who has died and did not properly maintain client funds. The fund is not taxpayer funded but is supported by Virginia lawyers who pay an annual fee of $5. Payments from the Clients’ Protection Fund are discretionary and are not a matter of right. 

If you have any questions, you may contact Vivian R. Byrd, administrator to Clients’ Protection Fund by email at (804) 775-0572.

Updated: Mar 30, 2022