SIDNEY — The indictment and plea of an area attorney was filed in Shelby County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday after the investigation into the incident was handed over to a special prosecutor about two and a half years ago.
Christopher Ramon Bucio, of Troy appeared in Shelby County Common Pleas Court to enter a guilty plea to one count of unauthorized use of property, a felony of the fourth-degree. In exchange for the guilty plea, no other charges will be filed.
Bucio is no longer listed as a partner of Roberts, Kelly & Bucio, LLP, which has several offices in the area.
The special prosecutor was Matthew Donahue, appointed to investigation. Judge Timothy Campbell, visiting judge, presided over the hearing.
The maxium prison term for the fourth degree felony is 18 months and a $5,000 fine.
The case began on Aug. 18, 2010, when officers from the Sidney Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at 222 Kossuth St., where Linda Heuker and her then-boyfriend, Gregory Barlow, lived, according to the complaint. Heuker’s two minor children also lived with her every other week.
The warrant was to search for a marijuana growth operation, which was found in the basement of the home. Hueker was taken into custody and charged with illegal manufacturing of drugs, a second-degree felony, and endangering children, a third-degree felony. A warrant was issued for Barlow’s arrest.
According to the complaint, shortly after Hueker’s arrest, her adult son contacted Bucio to represent his mother.
Bucio visited Heuker at the Shelby County Jail and advised her that his attorney fees for the representation would be expensive given the charges pending against her.
Heuker told Bucio she did not have enough money to pay for his attorney fees, but she did own a 22-acre parcel farmland that she would be willing to sell in order to pay for representation. On Aug. 30, Bucio returned to the jail with a fee agreement for her to sign. The rates were $30,000 for the pre-trial stage, $40,000 for the trial stage, and $10,000 for the motion stage. She signed this agreement and the same day Bucio filed notice with the court he would represent her, according to the complaint.
Bucio spoke with the Shelby County Prosecutor at the time, Ralph Bauer. He informed Bucio that if Heuker would cooperate with his office and testify against Barlow, he would request Heuker only be sentenced to probation.
According to the complaint, on Sept. 1, 2010, Heuker entered a guilty plea to the one count of child endangering in exchange for no other charges being filed against her. She also agreed to testify against Barlow. She was released on a recognizance bond the same day.
Around that same day, she also signed a General Warranty Deed, transferring her land to Bucio’s law firm. According to the complaint, at all relevant times, Heuker believed that she was transferring her farmland to Bucio for payment of his attorney fees; that Bucio would sell the farmland; that he would deduct his attorney fees and any costs/expenses associated with the sale of the farmland from the sale proceeds; and that he would provide her with the remainder of the sale proceeds.
On Nov. 1, 2010, the property was sold by Bucio’s firm for $135,000. Heuker was not advised of the sale.
On Nov. 15, 2010, Heuker was sentenced to three years of community control and ordered to pay a $200 fine and $182.28 in restitution. She was also ordered to complete drug and alcohol treatment and parenting classes.
The complaint continues to accuse Bucio of not fully disclosing the terms on which he was acquiring an interest in the land to her in writing, nor did he advise Heuker of the desirability of seeking legal counsel before entering into the transaction or giver her the reasonable opportunity to do so. In addition, Bucio did not obtain her informed consent to the essential terms of the transaction and his role in the transaction.
Beginning in January 2011, Heuker attempted to contact Bucio regarding the remainder of the proceeds from the sale of her land, and did so over the next six months because, according to the complaint, Bucio did not return her calls and canceled appointments.
In October 2011, Heuker filed a grievance with Bucio, and in November and January he sent responses. The complaint reads: “On January 9, 2012, respondent (Bucio) provided a false and misleading response to Heuker’s grievance.”
On June 5, 2012, Heuker filed a complaint in the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas raising 12 counts, including: legal malpractice for excessive fees charged and collected, breach of contract concerning the legal fee, civil conspiracy to hide the value of the property from Heuker, and malpractice for the failure to return unearned fees.
Common pleas court sided with Bucio and his law firm, and when Heuker appealed the decision, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Bucio has an undergraduate degree from Bluffton University in criminal justice and sociology, and earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He was sworn into the Ohio Bar Association in 2003. Bucio appeared in front of The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct last April regarding this case.