San Francisco attorney Drexel Bradshaw built his career in the courtroom, but he now finds himself at the center of his own trial that threatens to leave him barred from practicing law in California.
The State Bar, which investigates complaints concerning attorneys, charged Bradshaw with five counts of misconduct, alleging he “engaged in a scheme to defraud” an elderly client, Ora Gosey, out of more than $157,000.
“They’ve made an allegation -- it’s false,” said Bradshaw, who spoke exclusively to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit. “My client’s money was used by and large for 24-hour home care.”
Bradshaw said he had never collected any money from Gosey’s trust.
The State Bar’s case against Bradshaw is expected to wrap up by mid-February. The judge in the case will then make a recommendation that would need to be approved by the California Supreme Court. Since this is not a criminal trial, the worst discipline Bradshaw faces is losing his license to practice law.
However, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has learned Bradshaw, his former handyman and Bay Construction may now all be the subject of a criminal investigation, led by the Contractors State License Board. The government agency would neither confirm nor deny the criminal probe.
More than a decade ago, Gosey hired Bradshaw to help her create a trust account. She never married and did not have any children. In an unusual move, Gosey listed Bradshaw as one of the possible people to manage her money and home should anything happen to her. When she fell and injured herself four years ago, a court appointed Bradshaw in charge of her estate.
The State Bar accuses Bradshaw of funneling money from that trust into a company he helped create, Bay Construction. Bradshaw hired Bay Construction to do work on the elderly woman’s home while she was suffering from dementia.
“I don’t think that’s a conflict of interest,” Bradshaw said. “One of the repairs that was made was a flood, an emergency flood that happened on a weekend. All that work was done just to maintain the safety of the home.”
Bradshaw said he put the work out to bid but couldn’t find a single contractor willing to do the job.
He says he’s never had any financial interest in Bay Construction, nor does he own any part of the company.
Bradshaw’s signature, however, appears on documents filed with the Secretary of State’s Office to form Bay Construction. According to Bradshaw, he was only acting in the capacity as an attorney for the person who actually owns the company, a handyman named Juan Gonzalez, who had previously done repair work at Bradshaw’s own home.
“He seemed to need a leg up,” Bradshaw said. “So I agreed to loan him a thousand dollars and help him get his contractor’s license.”
Bradshaw let his former handyman register the company to the same high-rise address as Bradshaw’s law firm.
“I offered office space and allowed my receptionist to answer a phone for Bay Construction. The contractor would have meetings here in my conference room if it was not being used, and his mail showed up here. That was it,” Bradshaw said. “Bay Construction is and has always been owned 100 percent by Juan Gonzalez.”
But last month, in State Bar Court, Gonzalez testified he was under the impression he owned 49 percent of the company, while Bradshaw owned the other 51 percent. Bradshaw’s son, Colin Bradshaw, also worked for the business. Court documents show Bradshaw, his wife, his son, and his receptionist all had company credit cards in their names for Bay Construction.
Bradshaw said the arrangement helped the construction company get a 5 percent discount at Lowe’s. In court documents, Bradshaw said it was a “favor” to help his former handyman “succeed in his business.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Jeremiah Raxter, an attorney representing Delores Coleman, a relative of Gosey. “It’s unusual to have a credit card in the name of a construction company that you have no interest in.”
Last June, Gosey passed away at 90 years old. Coleman stands to inherit money from that trust and is now suing to have Bradshaw stripped of all responsibility regarding the trust. The judge in that case has yet to weigh in on whether or not there was any wrongdoing, but just last month, he did remove Bradshaw as the trustee while the State Bar pursues their own separate investigation into Bradshaw and possible fraud.
“Normally, the State Bar is this entity that is out there but doesn’t get involved,” Raxter said. “The fact that they filed charges against an attorney I think is telling.”
A previous NBC Bay Area investigation revealed the State Bar had a history of attempting to reduce its backlog of complaints against attorneys by simply dismissing more cases and settling others with written reprimands that stay hidden in a lawyer’s discipline file. The findings were revealed as part of a report released by the California State Auditor.
“If there are areas where we need to keep doing better, we are committed to continuing to do the best job we can to serve Californians because that’s what we’re here for,” said Rebecca Farmer, a spokesperson for the State Bar of California.
PREVIOUS STATE BAR CHARGES
The State Bar first attempted to take action against Bradshaw about a decade ago, accusing him of “corruption, dishonesty, and gross negligence.” The six counts of misconduct allege Bradshaw charged "grossly exaggerated fees" that "shook the conscience." The State Bar settled the case privately, allowing Bradshaw to continue practicing law with “no public record of discipline.”
The State Bar, however, recently issued a “consumer alert” on its website for Bradshaw, warning that he is accused of “major misappropriation of client funds.”
The agency, once again, has its sights set on Bradshaw.
“Most people don’t see it, but I have a heart of gold and done my best to take care of Ora,” he said. “She was special to us. We celebrated every birthday with her, every holiday. We were the only ones at her funeral -- my wife and children.”
BURIED IN AN UNMARKED GRAVE
Gosey’s friends and relatives said if Bradshaw planned a funeral, he didn’t tell them about it. NBC Bay Area asked Bradshaw for details about where the funeral was held and where Gosey is now buried, but he wouldn’t comment.
A copy of her death certificate reveals Gosey is buried at a cemetery in Lafayette, nearly a one-hour drive from her home in San Francisco. The staff at the cemetery told NBC Bay Area no one ever purchased a tombstone for Gosey, so Bradshaw’s former client now rests in an unmarked grave.