Disbarred attorney must pay restitution to client

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 28, 2013

CHARLESTON – A judge is recommending a disbarred Charleston attorney get probation and make restitution to one of his former clients from whom he allegedly swindled nearly $60,000 of his life savings.

Senior Status Wayne Circuit Judge Robert Chafin on Dec. 11 accepted the plea agreement reached two months earlier between the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office and John C. Krivonyak. Following his indictment in May on five counts of embezzlement, the Prosecutor’s Office agreed to dismiss counts two through five if Krivonyak, 74, agreed to plead guilty to the first count.

The indictment provides little in the way of specific allegations except that Krivonyak, at least six months prior to June 30, 2011, either embezzled or fraudulently converted more than $1,000 in currency or securities belonging to Alexander Mansfield. However, a victim impact statement Mansfield filed the day of the plea hearing gives some details of Krivonyak’s alleged wrongdoing.

According to Mansfield, an unspecified number of agents from Naval Criminal Investigative Services showed up at his house on an unspecified day with a warrant. At the time, the NCIS agents were conducting “an investigation involving many Navy personnel, including our son.”

After a six-hour search and interrogation, Mansfield said the agents left, taking with them “several computers, cameras, photograph albums, a roll of undeveloped film and a tablecloth our son brought back from Italy for us.” Afterwards, Mansfield said he called Krivonyak and asked him to manage and place in safekeeping the financial portfolio valued at $90,000 belonging to he and his wife.

Initially, Krivonyak was good to deposit funds as his request, Mansfield said. The money in the portfolio was used to supplement their Social Security income to pay, among other things, their home equity loan and other important expenses.

However, Mansfield said eventually Krivonyak failed to return telephone calls, and “get the money into the bank on time.” The last he spoke with him, Mansfield said, was on an unspecified date before Krivonyak and his wife “were leaving on a road trip to Georgia to visit friends and were going on a cruise as well.”

“He highly recommended our doing the same sometime,” Mansfield added.

Sometime thereafter, Mansfield says he received a call from Krivonyak saying was in the hospital. In their conversation, Krivonyak admitted he “'borrowed' the money but would return it as soon as he was back on his feet after his illness,” Mansfield says.

Also, he would also be surrendering his law license.

When Krivonyak either failed to call again or return any of his repeated telephone calls, Mansfield said he called the South Charleston Police Department and asked them to begin a criminal investigation, he says.

Since losing the money he gave Krivonyak, Mansfield said he and his wife “have had to choose, at times, between buying medicine and food.” Also, they have not been able to replace their 14-year old car, and “are at risk for having to sell our home.”

In accepting the agreement, Chafin, who was appointed to the case after all seven Kanawha Circuit judges recused themselves citing either a personal or professional friendship with Krivonyak, said he was inclined to accept the five years probation the Prosecutor’s Office recommended in lieu of a 1-10 year prison sentence. Also, he said any sentence would include Krivonyak repaying Mansfield $58,179.88.

Before imposing a formal sentence, Chafin referred Krivonyak’s case to the Kanawha County Adult Probation Office for a pre-sentence investigation.

Almost a year before the plea hearing, records show Krivonyak entered into a confidential agreement with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the arm of the state Supreme Court that investigates attorney misconduct, to surrender his license. The Court on Jan. 12, 2012, formally accepted the agreement and ordered his disbarment.

The order brought to an end a nearly 49-year career in law for Krivonyak.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case 11-1716

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 12-F-537

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