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The $174,000 question: Who gets the money Steve Bachar brought to court? (Local Tips & Reviews)

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Steve Bachar, 57, eyes the crowd during his sentencing hearing in Denver District Court on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Justin Wingerter photos)

In a trust account sits $174,370 of Steve Bachar’s money. Should he be able to withdraw it?

The cash was turned in to the Denver District Court last month by Bachar, a disgraced businessman and disbarred attorney who admitted stealing it from an old friend.

But that old friend, Jamie Lindsay, didn’t want it. On March 10, the 74-year-old cancer patient asked Judge Eric Johnson to reject a plea deal between Bachar and prosecutors and put Bachar on trial in hopes that he is sent to prison. He was told the money would go back to Bachar.

Johnson, in an unusual decision, granted the request and scheduled a September trial.

Robert Swestka, a public defender representing Bachar, then asked when his client could get his $174,370 back. A court clerk told him it would be available in a few days.

But then came three lawyers carrying three garnishment demands.

“What (Bachar) should understand is that people are paying attention to what he does and will continue to take every legal step, lawful step, to protect their interests against him,” said Mark Saliman, a Denver attorney who filed one of the writs of garnishment.

In the 20 months before Johnson rejected his plea deal, Bachar was ordered by three other Denver judges to pay a total of $4.8 million to three different plaintiffs — two companies and one person — that he was accused of taking from. He has never paid those three.

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Denver District Court Judge Eric Johnson listens to testimony during a sentencing hearing on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Justin Wingerter photos)

So, on the Monday after Johnson’s surprising Friday afternoon ruling, attorneys for all three tried to garnish Bachar’s $174,370 from the clerk of the Denver District Court. On March 28, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, representing the clerk, objected.

Assistant Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill wrote that “the property simply is not subject to garnishment” under long-standing legal principles in Colorado that prohibit parties in one case from taking court funds that were deposited in another, unrelated case.

“I think that the garnishment is absolutely appropriate and I think that the Attorney General’s Office, doing what it needs to do to protect its client, the state court, is wrong,” said Saliman, whose client Robert Hanfling won a $270,836 judgment against Bachar.

The dispute must now be decided by Judge Bruce Jones, who ordered Bachar to pay $3.8 million to Future Health Co. in 2021; Judge Stephanie Scoville, who ordered him to pay Hanfling in December; and Judge Shelley Gilman, who ordered him to pay $700,000 to DaVita in January. All three are Denver District Court judges who handle civil cases.

“What he did to us is probably the biggest fraud he has committed,” said a spokeswoman for Future Health Co., a California company that is now known as Sanitas Solutions.

“He needs to be behind bars because he needs to be stopped in his tracks,” she said.

Over the coming weeks, attorneys will try to persuade the three judges to see the dispute their way. Bachar will also be able to weigh in. His attorney, Swestka, declined to comment and attorneys for DaVita did not respond to requests for comment about Bachar.

“It’s interesting,” Saliman said. “You’ve got three courts all dealing with the same issue, which could give rise to three different results. I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

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