On Friday, December 8, 2023, the Florida Bar filed an ethics complaint against attorney Odiator Arugu, alleging multiple trust account violations and issues surrounding excessive fees and costs charged to clients.

The case is entitled “The Florida Bar v. Odiator Arugu.”

The charges cited Rules Regulating Florida Bar 4-1.4(a)(b), 4-1.5(a), 4-1.5(f)(2), 4-1.5(f)(4)(B)(i), 4-1.5(f)(4)(c), 4-1.5(f)(5), 4-1.154-1.15, 4-8.4(c), 5-1.1(a)(1), 5-1.1(a)(1)(B), 5-1.1(b),5-1.1(e), 5-1.2(b)(3)(C),5-1.2(d)(1)(A),5-1.2(d)(1)(B), 5-1.2(f). 

According to the complaint, Arigu neglected a client’s legal matter in April 2018 and failed to adequately communicate with the client. The client, Mbianda Dimo, hired Arigu to represent her in a lawsuit against a nursing school, Capscare, Inc. However, Arigu failed to respond to several of Dimo’s emails, text messages, and telephone calls.

The complaint also alleges that Arigu charged excessive fees and costs. In November 2021, Arigu agreed to settle the case for $30,000.00, but the settlement agreement specified that Capscare would issue settlement checks for $12,000.00 to Dimo and $18,000.00 to Arigu for attorney’s fees. However, Dimo refused to sign the settlement agreement because the distribution of the settlement funds did not comply with the contingency fee agreement she had signed with Arigu.

Furthermore, the complaint states that Arigu provided a contingency fee closing statement to Dimo that included charges for costs that were not adequately explained. Arigu charged $500.00 for travel, $1,541.66 for computer research, $400.00 for cell phone, and $750.00 for document scanning. However, when questioned about these costs, Arigu was unable to provide a reasonable basis for them.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Arigu engaged in several violations related to his trust account. He did not provide monthly reconciliations or monthly comparisons from January 2020 to September 2022, and his reconciled bank balance did not match the journal balance from October 2022 through December 2022. Arigu also disbursed his earned fees before the client signed the closing statement in five client matters involving contingency fees.

The complaint also states that Arigu’s trust account had a shortage of $1,472.43, which he replenished on September 22, 2022, by depositing his own funds into the account. However, he did not report the shortage or the replenishment to the bar. Moreover, on September 27, 2022, Arigu certified to the bar on his 2022 membership dues statement that he was “in compliance with the trust account and property safekeeping rules.”

Lastly, the complaint alleges that Arigu’s practice was to disburse funds to clients and third parties from his trust account with cashier’s checks that he would obtain from the bank. However, when he obtained a cashier’s check to pay a client or medical provider, the bank would remove the client’s funds from Arigu’s trust account that same day, but it could be months before the recipient negotiates the check and receives the money. As a result, the client funds and third-party funds were not being held by Arigu in his trust account, and he would not know if the client or third party received the funds since he would not receive the canceled check.

In conclusion, the complaint filed against Odiator Arigu highlights several allegations of neglect, excessive fees, and trust account violations. The matter is now before the Supreme Court of Florida, and Arigu has been summoned to respond to the allegations.

The Complaint states:

“WHEREFORE, The Florida Bar prays respondent will be appropriately disciplined in accordance with the provisions of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar as amended.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. Arugu is an estate planning attorney in Orlando, Florida. He attended the University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law, graduating in 1994. He acquired his law license in Florida in 1995.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.