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Duncan lawyer accused of embezzlement found dead

As 7News reported earlier this month, a prominent Duncan lawyer found himself on the wrong side of the law last week - and, his troubles landed him in court.  On Wednesday, September 24, investigators found him dead from a gunshot wound to the head.  Charles Barnes worked as a probate attorney for many years, and on Thursday, September 18, stood accused of embezzlement and forgery.  Prosecutors said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) said he spent nearly $150,000 that belonged to a client.  The prosecution says he was holding the money for a family's estate, but when they tried to get it back, it was gone.  Barnes' body was found at Washita Point in the Lake Texoma area, and he appeared to have been dead for several days.  Authorities say that after Barnes posted bail, he went missing, and the OSBI feared he was on the run or had harmed himself.  They say no foul play is suspected at this time.

Last week, the Oklahoma Bar Association said that Barnes filed an application to resign from the bar, which means to give up his law license, and discontinued his practice.  The move came days after his criminal case.  According to court records, Barnes was hired in February, 2007, to handle the probate of Faye Glenn's estate.  Her checking account was transferred to Barnes' Attorney Trust Account at BancFirst in Duncan. 

According to Stephens County District Attorney Bret Burns, despite the fact that Barnes was supposed to reimburse $150,000 to the executor of the state, Barnes had yet to do so after the probate period ended.  "So there was a large sum of money just sitting there," said Burns. "They had been asking for that money back for the past year and they got different excuses, until they finally found out it was gone."

According to court records Barnes told investigators that he had spent the money because he had gotten into a financial hole.  Investigators said that Barnes later attempted to cover his tracks by writing the family a check from his wife's account that he knew was closed.  He was also accused of forging his wife's signature on that check.

The family got its money, but BancFirst took a hit.  "The family is actually beneficiary of the forged check," said Burns.  "The check was forged - turned into a cashier's check - so the bank is actually out $150,000."  While this is only one case of embezzlement, Burns feared there were more cases over the course of Barnes' career.  "What I am concerned about in this community is, is there other money owed to other victims?  We're starting to get some phone calls from attorneys and different people, estates, divorces, and trusts, saying they've had similar problems with Charles Barnes," he said. 

Prior to his death, Barnes was booked into jail and released on a $148,000 bond - the amount he stood accused of embezzling.  Barnes disappeared shortly after being released on bond.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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