Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Lawyer sentenced to 4 years for theft

Woman's estate robbed of more than $150,000

The Associated Press

        CANTON — A lawyer who stole more than $150,000 from a Massillon woman's estate was sentenced to four years in prison.

        Loise Estelle Price's heirs said they don't expect to see a penny of the $165,798 in restitution that Robert Coombs of Akron was ordered to pay them, but they are happy the lawyer will be locked up so he can't steal from others.

        “I think the chances of getting restitution — unless he hits the lottery — are very slim,” said Ms. Price's 65-year-old son, David L. Price of Fairfax, Va.

        Any restitution that is paid will be split between David Price and his sister, Ruth Best of Massillon.

        “I don't believe him when he says he wants to pay us back and that he's sorry,” said Ms. Best, 58.

        Before Mr. Coombs was sentenced Monday, he told Stark County Common Pleas Judge Sara Lioi that he does not have the full amount. He offered to make monthly payments.

        On Sept. 17, Mr. Coombs pleaded guilty to aggravated theft, a third-degree felony. His law license will be suspended.

        Prosecutors say Mr. Coombs apparently used the Price estate money to buy a building from his father in 1995, not long after Loise Estelle Price died at age 83. The building in Akron was to be remodeled to provide rental space for lawyers. It since has been sold at public auction.

        In Stark County Probate Court records, Ms. Best and her brother say Mr. Coombs closed their mother's estate four years ago without notice, paid his firm more than $3,700 in fees and emptied several of the woman's bank accounts.

        Ms. Best and Mr. Price say Mr. Coombs avoided them for years. When they met him in May of this year, he told them the estate had been closed and their mother held no bank accounts.

        The estate records show assets totaling $41,640, mostly in stocks and bonds. The siblings received $15,000 each in stocks, the funeral bill was $7,000 and Coombs claimed attorney fees of $3,700.

        Ms. Best and Mr. Price protested the closing and the lack of money. They later found records showing that several of their mother's bank accounts were closed in 1995 and more than $130,000 had been disbursed.


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