Lynn attorney Joseph P. Bernardo was disbarred after allegedly pocketing $21,000 from his elderly mother’s widow Veterans Administration benefits.
The Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County ordered Bernardo’s Judgement of Disbarment on Dec. 14, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (BBO). The decision came after the local attorney was convicted in Pittsfield District Court of larceny over $250 by a single scheme in violation of a felony.
The phone number for Bernardo, listed on the state BBO website, is out of service.
Bernardo was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction, according to the BBO. His conviction was upheld by the appeals court in June 2017.
Bernardo represented his mother in obtaining the benefits, to which she was entitled as the widow of a combat veteran, according to the BBO. He became the representative payee of her account, where the monthly payments were being deposited.
From August 2012 through January 2013, Bernardo wrote numerous checks from the account for his own benefit, totaling at least $21,000, without his mother’s knowledge or consent, according to the BBO.
Based upon Bernardo’s conviction, the bar counsel filed a petition with the BBO for discipline in April 2018, but he failed to respond and was defaulted. The board voted to recommend disbarment in October and by the end of November a temporary suspension was ordered, pending further disciplinary proceedings.
The parties waived hearing before the court and agreed to disbarment, per the board’s recommendation.