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Regulation and Compliance > State Regulation

Lawyer Charged With Bilking Client, 90, to Fund Cat Litter Box Invention

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An elder law attorney is being held on $500,000 bail after accusations that he had advised a 90-year-old man and his 66-year-old daughter to sell the father’s assets and invest the $120,000 in proceeds into developing a new cat litter box system the attorney had invented, according to a Thursday article in The Sacramento Bee.

Delbert Joe Modlin, 63, was arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court Thursday on felony charges of financial elder abuse, grand theft and securities fraud, the paper reported.  

Modlin, of Sacramento, California, agreed to stop practicing law and seeing his clients until all of the criminal proceedings are complete, which allowed his bail to be lowered by $100,000, The Bee reported. Modlin has been practicing law in California since 1987.

The patent for the improved litter box was first filed in 2008; it purports to take away the messy scooping aspect from cleaning cat litter by using a litter box bag with mesh in its center, and sports “peripheral” drawstings to remove each bag individually.

“Modlin told (the daughter) he would double her investment in four years,” The Bee wrote.

However, Modlin did not tell them that he was awaiting a federal trial, that he had filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 and 2012 and that he had a severe gambling problem. The state investigator said that Modlin failed to provide information to the father and daughter that a “reasonable prudent investor would consider significant.”

This isn’t the first bout of trouble in which the attorney has landed. The Bee reported In 2011 that Modlin was charged with defrauding an elderly couple from Auburn, California, by selling their home and assets without their consent. That case is set to go to trial this year or next.

The cases were filed by the state attorney general’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.  

In the court documents cited by The Bee, the state says Modlin hired a firm to clean up his online presence by “manipulating search engines” to hide the negative details. There was also an alleged array of false testimonials and websites touting his “experience, expertise and compassion for elders.”

Modlin’s online biography states that he is an advocate for helping elderly clients and aims to “make sure that the elderly are not being taken advantage of, as well as to ensure that every elderly citizen receives everything that he or she is entitled to.”

“There are many ways to commit elder abuse,” prosecutor Steven Muni told The Bee, “But no one, not even an attorney, is exempt.” Modlin’s lawyer, Michel Farley, declined to go into detail about the case when contacted by the paper but called the claims against his client “complicated.”

“I plan to investigate all the evidence, get to the bottom of what happened and give everyone their day in court,” Farley said. 

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