Florida Bar suspends Gainesville attorney

William B. Watson III was suspended over allegations he misappropriated money.

Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.

The Florida Bar has suspended Gainesville lawyer William B. Watson III on allegations that he misappropriated money for a development deal by a client.

The case involves client Jason Meyer, for whom Watson in November 2007 arranged a line of credit for a development deal in Arizona, according to documents the Bar filed with the Florida Supreme Court.

In January 2008, a Texas investor, Steven Hooks, agreed to provide money for Meyer's line of credit. Hooks sent $300,000 on Jan. 22, 2008, to Watson's trust account for the line of credit.

Hooks believed the money would be held for 48 hours and then returned to him with a profit, according to the legal documents. Instead of being held, the money was disbursed to Meyer. Hooks later reached an agreement with Meyer to recover part of the money, according to the document.

The various parties dispute whether the money was to be held or disbursed.

A similar case involving different investors occurred in 2009.

A referee who heard that case, 5th Circuit Judge Lawrence J. Semento, found that Watson was wrong to disburse the money.

"The essence of the dispute is whether Mr. Watson had authority to disburse the third parties' funds from his trust account," Semento wrote. "The factual disputes are resolved against Mr. Watson. The evidence is credible, clear and convincing that he disbursed funds contrary to the investors' intent, and without their consent."

Semento wrote that the situation could have been avoided had Watson received written agreements from the parties on how the money would be handled.

A phone message left for Watson had not been returned as of late Tuesday.

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