An Urbana attorney’s license has been indefinitely suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court after he was found guilty of selling a client’s land to pay legal fees.
Christopher R. Bucio pleaded to one count of unauthorized use of property, which is a fourth-degree felony. He was also sentenced to five years of community control and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, according to the Ohio Supreme Court . He will not be allowed to re-apply until the control ends.
Linda Heuker was arrested in August 2010 after marijuana was found growing in the basement of her residence in Sidney. She met Bucio at the Shelby County jail and told him she did not have money to pay his fees but was willing to sell some land to make payment.
Heuker transferred the land to Bucio under his advisement believing Bucio would sell the land, take out his fees and give her the remaining balance. The attorney was able to negotiate a plea agreement after her arrest, and Heuker was charged and later pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony. She was then released from jail.
Her land sold for $135,000. The real estate company received $127,767 from the sale after paying various expenses and a court judgment. That money was then transferred to Bucio.
Heuker tried numerous times to get in touch with Bucio and his staff in 2011 about the remaining money from the sale. She said several appointments were cancelled, and she was later told “she was not entitled to any portion of the sale proceeds because he agreed to accept the land as a flat fee for his representation.”
He admitted he spent about 40 hours on her case, which would equal about $9,000 if he charged his standard rate.
The next year, Heuker filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Bucio, but it was dismissed. Then the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was asked to look over the agreement between the attorney and client after the Shelby County Prosecutor learned of it.
Bucio later agreed to pay Heuker $97,767. That amount was negotiated by both parties and was taken from sale amount. It came six years after the client’s arrest.
The Springfield News-Sun contacted Bucio and received the following statement:
“I respect the Supreme Court’s decision to indefinitely suspend me from the practice of law. Fortunately, this process has humbly allowed me to become a better husband, father, friend and most importantly a true believer in God. “