Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court Disbars Former Jacksonville Lawyer in Pot Scam

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court Disbars Former Jacksonville Lawyer in Pot Scam

Article excerpt

Byline: Dara Kam News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE | The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred a former Jacksonville lawyer who charged sick people nearly $800 for a "patient identification card" he claimed could keep them from getting arrested for having or growing marijuana.

Several of Ian Christensen's clients were arrested and prosecuted after following the lawyer's advice, according to court documents.

Doing business as "Health Law Services," Christensen and Christopher Ralph charged patients $799 for services that included a visit with a doctor, legal services and documents, as well as the ID card, which was not sanctioned by any government agency.

Critics interviewed by The News Service of Florida in 2014 accused the duo of running a scam. Christensen stopped practicing law in 2015 and no longer lives in Florida, according to an affidavit filed with the court last year.

The justices' disbarment of Christensen was a far harsher penalty than a twoyear suspension recommended by Florida Bar lawyer Carlos Alberto Leon, who served as a referee in the case spawned by a complaint about Christensen filed in June 2016.

According to Thursday's order immediately disbarring Christensen, several of his clients were arrested and prosecuted after following his advice. In at least three instances, Christensen provided clients with a "grow sign" to post outside their homes indicating they were cultivating marijuana, according to court records.

Duval County residents Scott and Marsha Yandell suffered lifealtering consequences after following Christensen's advice, the records show.

In January 2015, police responded to a 911 call at the Yandell's residence, which had a "grow sign" posted outside.

The next day, the Yandells asked Christensen if they needed to dismantle their grow operation, but the lawyer told them they "had nothing to worry about" and that he or someone from the office would contact law enforcement, according to court records.

The following month, a SWAT team raided the Yandells' home, and they were arrested and charged with manufacture of cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to sell or deliver, possession of a place or structure for trafficking or manufacturing a controlled substance, and trafficking in cannabis in excess of 25 pounds. …

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