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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

Pasco murder suspect’s Spokane lawyer admits mismanaging money, records

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 27, 2018, 9:38 p.m.

By Kristin M. Kraemer Tri-City Herald

The lawyer for a Pasco murder suspect has been reprimanded by the state for mismanaging client money and records.

Tracy Scott Collins agreed to the disciplinary action by the Washington State Bar Association.

The Spokane attorney is on probation for two years but remains eligible to practice law. He has been licensed in the state since November 1991.

The reprimand, which became official Dec. 5, will not affect the status of Nathaniel L. Thompson’s case, according to Franklin County prosecutors.

Collins could not be reached Friday afternoon at his law firm.

State bar documents show the account mismanagement and overdrafts happened 1 1/2 years before Thompson’s family hired Collins for the Franklin County Superior Court matter.

Thompson, 27, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and conspiracy to commit murder.

The Kennewick man and his half-brother, Simeon C.E. Howard, are accused of killing Thomas Contreras De Leon in December 2016, while meeting up to settle a score.

Howard is accused of pulling out a gun and opening fire. De Leon, 27, died from bullet wounds to his heart and right lung.

Thompson initially was going to be tried with his half-brother, but their cases have since been separated.

Collins is scheduled to appear in court with his client on March 6. Trial is set for April 16.

His professional misconduct came to light after he wrote a check in June 2015 with insufficient money in his trust account, state bar documents show. That caused an overdraft on the bank account that holds client funds.

The state bar also reported Collins did not maintain a check register that listed each transaction, an individual ledger for each client or copies of deposit slips and canceled checks. He also did not reconcile his bank records with his client ledgers.

Collins on at least one occasion put earned fees into the trust account, and disbursed money from the account in excess of the amount of money available.

He violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to hold all client funds in trust, documents said.

While on probation, Collins’ trust account practices will be subject to periodic review by the state bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

This is the second time Collins has been reprimanded by the state bar.

In July 2012, he got in trouble for conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

The lawyer went to visit a client in the Spokane County jail, and told jail staff that the woman accompanying him was his paralegal.

The woman actually was the client’s fiancee, and Collins was trying to help her get access to the inmate in the attorney visitation booth, documents said. She had worked in Collins’ office in the past but no longer was employed by him.

Jail staff determined the woman could not visit the inmate, so Collins went into the facility by himself. However, his actions “could have caused a significant security breach at the jail,” documents said.

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