Former Huntington attorney gets three-year suspension for over-billing

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 23, 2012

CHARLESTON – A North Carolina attorney's West Virginia license has been suspended for overbilling a client in excess of $100,000.

The state Supreme Court on March 8 accepting the recommendation of its Lawyer Disciplinary Board, and ordered Richard L. Lancianese suspended for three years. The Court's action stems from the Board's finding that Lancianese, from 2000 until 2007 while working for a Huntington law firm, "knowingly submitted false [and] inflated bills" to an automotive parts manufacturer.

According to the statement of charges the Board filed against him last year, Lancianese, 50, overbilled BorgWarner, Inc. $135,878.68 for defending them in asbestos-related cases. The overbillings occurred when Lancianese worked for Baker and Marstellar.

Upon discovering Lancianese billed two of BorgWarner's insurance carriers for the same events rather than evenly between the two during routine audit in late 2007, Roy Baker, one of the firm's partners, began an internal investigation that led to the discovery of additional erroneous billings. According to the statement, Baker notified Peggy A. Muensterman, BorgWarner's corporate attorney in Illinois, of the errors which resulted in Muensterman filing collateral ethics complaints against Baker and Lancianese on Dec. 1, 2008.
Because he cooperated fully with the investigation, and made full restitution to BorgWarner for Lancianese's over-billing, the Board issued Baker an admonishment.
Along with the suspension, the Court ordered that Lancianese take an additional six hours of continuing education in law office management beyond the normal 12 hours required for reinstatement, and pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
The suspension is the first disciplinary action taken against Lancianese, who currently resides in Winston-Salem, since his admission to the state Bar on May 20, 1986.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 11-0067

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