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October 10, 2013

Disbarred attorney ordered to jail, must repay trust fund

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — A former attorney will spend 18 months to 20 years in prison and must repay all of the $315,000 he stole from a trust fund set up for the children of his father’s best friend and business acquaintance.

“Where is the money?” Judge James Biernat Jr. said Oct. 9, minutes before he sentenced Robert Buschmohle, 40, of St. Clair Shores.

Macomb County prosecutors alleged Buschmohle was the sole administrator of a living trust established by Derek Tate for his wife and three sons prior to Tate’s death from cancer in 2007. Buschmohle was charged in February with embezzlement over $100,000 and pleaded no contest to the charge in August after investigations by Warren police and the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

In discussions before the sentence was handed down, Buschmohle, through his attorney Andrea Ferrara, disputed the claim that he maliciously robbed the trust fund and took advantage of two of Tate’s children, Keith and Stephen, who were 12 and 14 when Tate died.

But Assistant Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Sian Hengeveld argued that Buschmohle did take advantage of their youth when he began using the money for his own benefit, and that of his friends and family members.

“He was a close family friend. He knew the history. He knew the background,” Hengeveld said. “He knew that Derek Tate was suffering immensely with his terminal illness, and that his last dying wish was to establish this trust so he could set his three boys up financially, so that at the very least they could start their lives off not having to worry financially about the basics in life. Mr. Buschmohle took advantage of that, and he knew better.

“I find this case deplorable. I think that it is distasteful and despicable, that somebody in my profession did this to a member of our community,” Hengeveld said.

Speaking on his own behalf, Buschmohle didn’t say where the money went. But when asked, he told the judge some of it benefited himself and those around him, “unbeknownst to them.”

“One day I will ask Keith and Stephen for their forgiveness, not until I’ve lived up to every one of my obligations,” Buschmohle said. “I have quite a bit of work to do to that end. I think there’s much that needs to be explained to them, I think I owe them that.”

Buschmohle also told the judge he’d known Derek Tate for years and that he has known Tate’s children since they were small boys.

“So, while you were stealing the money, did their faces pop up?” Biernat said. “The man is dying of cancer, wants to give his kids something and he trusts you.

“Shakespeare said the first thing we do is kill all the lawyers. I think he had you in mind. You are a villain, what people think of when they have a negative view of lawyers. What you have done to your friend who passed away and his family is unbelievable.”

Buschmohle’s words about seeking forgiveness were apparently meaningless for two of Derek Tate’s sons and their mother, Ilona Mossop, Derek Tate’s ex-wife.

Mossop contacted the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission when her oldest son was about to turn 18, wanting to know how funds from the trust would be disbursed and couldn’t get answers from Buschmohle. The commission contacted Warren police based on the findings of its investigation.

The family gathered in the courtroom for the sentencing and both Keith Tate and Stephen Tate got the chance to address the man who stole the money their father had left to help get them started.

Buschmohle reportedly paid $32,800 in restitution before the hearing and said he had landed a job working in sales. He closed his Roseville law practice after he was charged in February and was disbarred by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board in May.

At the conclusion of the hearing, a deputy took Buschmohle into custody and led him away.

Afterward, Derek Tate’s sons said all that really matters to them is that the court backed up their dad’s good intentions by sending the man who stole his trust to jail.

Both said they’re not interesting in hearing Buschmohle’s apology.

“It will be a cold day in Hell when that happens, I will tell you that right now,” said Stephen Tate, 20, of Warren. “Justice was served.”

Keith Tate, 18, of Warren, said it was never about the money for the family, but about honoring their father’s intentions.

“If he paid 100 times what the restitution was, I wouldn’t care,” Keith Tate said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.