Beaumont attorney gets 15 years in prison

Beaumont attorney Kip Lamb

Beaumont attorney Kip Lamb was sentenced to prison time Monday, April 8, after admitting to defrauding at least two clients in what Judge John Stevens said was an attempt to keep Lamb’s law firm afloat while maintaining a lavish lifestyle for him and his family.

Lamb appeared in Stevens’ court to face two first-degree felony counts of misappropriation of fiduciary property, a crime that carried a maximum sentence of life in prison, if convicted.

The courtroom Monday was full of attorneys, family members and churchgoers, some victims from the New Life Tabernacle Church of Beaumont, who had retained Lamb as its attorney. In 2006, the church was embroiled in scandal after Dr. Jeffrey Klem, a local cardiologist married to Beth, the daughter of the Pastor of New Life, was indicted on three counts of indecency with a child in Jefferson County and two counts in Harris County. In 2009, Klem was sentenced to 10 years of adjudicated probation in a plea deal on the lesser criminal charge of injury to a child.

In a subsequent civil action filed against Klem and New Life Tabernacle, the church settled out of court for a confidential dollar amount. But according to testimony in Monday’s court, in an attempt to hide assets of the Tabernacle which could be sought by Beaumont attorney Clay Dugas — who represented the young victims— Lamb convinced New Life Tabernacle to transfer approximately $1,094,611.02 into his trust account.

Judge John Stevens broke down the series of events that led to Lamb’s folly, starting with the April 14, 2008, transfer of the church’s money.

“From there, that money gets washed pretty quickly,” Stevens said.

From Lamb’s trust account — transfers of $100,000 at a time began appearing in a special account created by Lamb, the largest of which was a $750,000 transfer in May 2008. Stevens said from there the funds were funneled through Lamb’s law firm operations account, and then into Lamb’s personal account where he and his wife used the funds at their leisure.

Stevens became particularly outspoken when he came to Lamb’s travel itinerary, which included first-class flights to New York, Alabama and Ecuador.

“You traveled all over,” Stevens admonished. “And with someone else’s money.”

With American Express bills of more than $200,000 per year, including $271,000 in 2008, $326,000 in 2009, and a 2010 balance of $292,000, Stevens said by September 2011, Lamb was out of money and was looking for his next opportunity for income.

Lamb’s second charge in Stevens’ court was the result of misuse of funds belonging to an unsuspecting cerebral palsy patient, Sandra Cooper, whose estate was awarded more than $230,000 from litigation Lamb was involved in.

According to Stevens, on Oct. 27, 2011, approximately $231,000 was deposited directly into Lamb’s trust account, of which Cooper’s estate received only $31,000.

By the end of 2011, roughly two months later, the money was gone.

Lamb claimed associates of his had been forging checks and had been depositing the money into his account. But Judge Stevens was unconvinced that the Beaumont attorney was oblivious.

”How could you stick your head in the sand?” Stevens said. “For at least half a year?”

Stevens also accused Lamb of forging a promissory note from the New Life Tabernacle Church giving him unfettered access to the church’s money.

After a short statement from Lamb, Stevens gave the attorney the maximum sentence under the guilty plea — 15 years in prison.

Lamb must also pay restitution in the amount of $1,094,611.02 to the New Life Tabernacle Church and some $200,000 to the estate of Sandra Cooper.

Stevens said “arrogance and greed in spending” led him to the maximum sentence for Lamb, who was immediately taken into custody in the courtroom Monday.