Former Buffalo County prosecutor hit with suspension for diverting moneySteve Fox, who since 2005 has served as state’s attorney in Buffalo County and assistant state’s attorney in Brule County, admitted earlier this month to diverting approximately $109,000 in client payments to his personal business account over a four-year period.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
CHAMBERLAIN — A former Buffalo County state’s attorney has been suspended from practicing law in South Dakota for three years.
Steve Fox, who since 2005 has served as state’s attorney in Buffalo County and assistant state’s attorney in Brule County, admitted earlier this month to diverting approximately $109,000 in client payments to his personal business account over a four-year period, court documents say.
Instead, the funds should have been deposited in the Sundall, Schaub and Fox P.C. bank account because the law firm’s partners “shared the net profits of their partnership equally,” according to court documents prepared by the disciplinary board of the South Dakota State Bar and filed Jan. 7 with the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Fox, 59, split from the law firm last May. Robert Schaub, one of Fox’s former partners, filed the complaint against Fox. Court documents say Fox “experienced difficulty working with his former partners for several years” before the complaint was filed.
Court documents say the money was taken from seven separate client matters and diverted by Fox as follows: $38,000 in 2008, $11,000 in 2009, $52,500 in 2010, and $7,500 in 2011.
In a formal response filed Feb. 4, Fox admitted to the allegations.
Fox has now agreed to repay his former partners $120,000 and has already filed sales tax returns and paid the taxes due on the diverted funds, and updated his personal income tax returns, court documents say.
Fox also mixed funds from clients with his personal or business accounts in three separate client matters, but no loss was suffered by the clients in those matters, court documents say.
The severity of Fox’s suspension was aggravated by “his pattern of misconduct, his multiple offenses and his substantial experience in the practice of law,” and mitigated by his lack of prior offenses, his cooperation with the disciplinary board, “his genuine remorse, his agreement to generous terms of repayment to his former partners and his record of service to his church and community,” court documents say.
Multiple calls made to Fox by The Daily Republic were not returned.
The South Dakota Supreme Court filed the official judgment of suspension against Fox on Feb. 21. The suspension will become effective March 25.
During the suspension, Fox will be allowed to act as a legal assistant for David J. Larson, of Chamberlain, on the condition he get written approval from the disciplinary board before acting as legal assistant in any other law firm or location.
Brule/Buffalo County Clerk of Courts Doris Juhnke said Friday that no criminal charges have been filed against Fox. The Daily Republic contacted numerous sources to ask if criminal charges are possible, but they all declined to speak on the record or could not be reached.
Fox has practiced law in the Chamberlain area since graduating from law school at the University of South Dakota in 1979.
David Natvig has been appointed to serve as interim-state’s attorney in Buffalo County, according to Buffalo County Auditor Elaine Wulff. Natvig is also the elected state’s attorney in Brule County.