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Disbarred attorney jailed for contempt

Disbarred attorney Richard A. Brennan, who lost his license for misusing money clients paid him to help reduce their debts, was sent to jail for contempt of court after violating a judge’s order that he stop selling a debt-settlement service he did not actually provide.

Last Wednesday, Frederick County Circuit Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. ordered Brennan to the Frederick County Detention Center for six months, or until Brennan provides the Maryland Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division with bank records and canceled checks related to the settlement service. Dwyer also ordered Brennan to pay $2,588,863.31 in restitution to the division, which brought suit against Brennan.

Philip Ziperman, a deputy chief of the division, called Brennan’s case “unusual” for the gall he exhibited in defying a court order. Brennan “was ordered to stop taking money and in direct violation of that court order refused to do so,” said Ziperman, who successfully urged Dwyer to issue the contempt order.

Officials at the detention center declined to forward a telephone call to Brennan seeking comment Friday, stating that media communication with an inmate must be conducted in person.

Failure to pay

Brennan, who was a solo practitioner in Frederick, was disbarred by consent in January for having misappropriated funds in connection with his debt-settlement service and for lack of diligence and communication with clients.

Before running afoul of the Attorney Grievance Commission, however, Brennan had already incurred the wrath of the Consumer Protection Division. The division said his promise of helping clients reduce their debts was essentially a sham, as he collected their fees, did little work on their behalf and lived lavishly on the money they paid.

In October 2007, the division and Brennan reached an out-of-court settlement under which he agreed to return money to clients, pay $200,000 in penalties and costs and stop selling debt-settlement services unless he posted a $50,000 performance bond with the division.

The division subsequently sued Brennan in the Frederick County Circuit Court after he failed to pay the restitution, penalties and costs. The court in January 2009 found in favor of the division and ordered Brennan to stop selling debt-settlement services and pay restitution to the division.

The division, saying Brennan was still selling the services, then moved on April 9 for the contempt order.

Brennan represented himself in court.