A Hamburg lawyer on Thursday was suspended from the practice of law and charged with theft and obtaining a signature by deception.
Dustyn Codie Martin, 28, deceptively obtained more than $100,000 in cash from his client, Patsy Carpenter, and refused to return the money when she requested that he do so. Martin is also alleged to have deceptively obtained Carpenter’s signature, according to an affidavit.
Carpenter, a retired school teacher who hired Codie Martin to represent her in a divorce, said she placed her complete trust in Martin. Carpenter had taught Martin’s mother at Wilmar and was friends with her parents. She said Martin told her that she was “like family and he would take care of (her) like (she) was family,” an affidavit states.
The divorce was final in June 2016 with the division of property to be handled at a later date. Carpenter said shortly after her divorce was final, when she and Martin were discussing the property, Martin asked her if she had any assets not listed on her bank statements, checking or savings or cash. She said she told Martin she had $100,000 cash in a lock box at her bank. She had accumulated the cash over 40 years, saving money since 1975. She was a school teacher for 32 years, worked as a substitute teacher, worked in after-school programs, taught summer school, sold vacuum cleaners and windows, and baked and sold pies, according to the affidavit.
Carpenter said Martin then told her she needed to get that money out of the bank. First, he told her to take the money to Louisiana, but then told her he needed to put it in his lock box. When she agreed to do so, Martin told her not to tell anyone and it was not to be discussed in his office because he would lose his license to practice law and get disbarred, according to the affidavit.
In late July 2016, Carpenter and Martin, in separate vehicles, drove to Monticello where her bank is located. Carpenter went to Union Bank on US 425 South, signed into her deposit box, and removed $100,000 bundled in $100 bills. She then went across the street to a parking lot where Martin was waiting. Martin got into her vehicle with a briefcase and she gave him the money. He placed all of the money in his brief case, got back in his car and drove away, according to the affidavit.
Later, at a meeting with Martin, Carpenter said she asked Martin how she would get her money if something happened to him. She said he told her that he had left a note in his lock box telling his wife that the money belonged to Patsy Carpenter. Carpenter said she believed him and trusted him, the affidavit states.
Carpenter, according to the affidavit, said Martin subsequently stopped by her home where she told him she had accumulated another $8,000-$9,000. She said he told her to give him the money and he would put it in his lock box. After that meeting, she said, Martin became hard to reach, but when he did respond to her calls or texts, he would tell her: “Don’t worry!”, “I am taking care of you!”, “You are like family to me!”, “Why are you worrying?”, “I’ve got your back”, “Don’t you trust me?”, “I want you to be with me when this (his) baby comes!”, “I’m gonna need you to help me take care of our baby!”, “You’re family!”
Over time, Carpenter said she became uneasy and worried about her money. She said she needed money to help her children but was unable to get it. Martin told her to never discuss the situation and never use the word “money” to him. She said she began texting Martin again in June 2018 but he did not respond, according to the affidavit.
On August 30, 2018, Carpenter said she found Martin at his office and demanded that he return her money. He refused to return the money, but did type up a document titled “Separate Trust,” acknowledging that he was in possession of Carpenter’s $100,000 and that it should be returned to her in the event of his death. It also named the person to whom the money should be given in the event of Carpenter’s death. Martin and she signed the document and he notarized it.
In September, Carpenter wrote Martin two letters. In a hand delivered letter dated September 13, 2018, Carpenter demanded that her money be returned by noon on September 14, 2018 and if he did not do so she would file a complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct and take her information to the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office seeking criminal charges against Martin. In a hand delivered letter dated September 19, 2018, Carpenter notified Martin that he was fired and again demanded her money, according to copies of the letters attached to the affidavit.
Carpenter hired Lake Village attorney, Robert Bridewell, who made several appointments with Martin to have Carpenter’s money returned. Martin missed all of the appointments, with excuses, according to the affidavit.
On October 9, Martin advised Bridewell he was on his way to the Chicot County Sheriff’s Office to deliver Carpenter’s money, $108,000. The arrangement was that Martin would deliver the money to the sheriff’s office where it would be counted and receipted. Bridewell would then have Carpenter pick up her money. Later that day, Martin went to Bridewell’s office with a Southern Bancorp check from the Martin Law Firm, PLLC Arkansas IOLTA account for $108,000. Bridewell advised Martin that a check would not be accepted; Carpenter would accept only cash because that is what he took from her, according to the affidavit.
October 12, Martin was scheduled to deliver to the Chicot County Sheriff’s Office $108,000 in cash, but failed to deliver the full amount. He delivered a total of $30,000 cash in three separate envelopes of $10,000 each.
Tenth Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen on Thursday charged Martin with theft of property valued at more than $25,000. The charging document states that Martin, from July 27, 2016 through October 12, 2018, in a continuing course of conduct made an unauthorized transfer of interest in Carpenter’s property, or knowingly obtained her property by deception.
Theft of property valued at more that $25,000 is a Class B felony punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Deen also charged Martin with obtaining a signature by deception. The charging document states that Martin, on or about August 30, 2018, with the purpose to defraud, obtained by deception Carpenter’s signature on a written instrument affecting her pecuniary interest.
Obtaining a signature by deception is a Class D felony punishable by a maximum six-year prison sentence and maximum fine of $10,000.
A summons was issued to Martin to appear in court on December 10, 2018.
Also, on Thursday, Martin was suspended from the practice of law in Arkansas.