Former Hege clients seeking assitance

State Bar office has

received complaints

'for months' on lawyer

By Angie Thompson

TIFTON -- People who said they lost financially and suffered emotionally because of a local attorney arrested Friday join others seeking assistance from the State Bar Association.

Karen Harvey Kilpatrick of Tifton visited the South Georgia office of the State Bar at 254 E. 2nd St. Friday afternoon.

"I lost everything I had," Kilpatrick said about her dealings with Tifton attorney David Roy Hege. "When this happened, I felt lost and I didn't know what to do. I cried all the time."

Bonne Cella, who has been the administrator for the Tifton office for nine years, decided to go to work early Friday.

"I read the paper this morning at 6:30 a.m.," Cella said Friday. "I decided that I better go on in the office because we would probably be getting calls. The phone started reading at 7 a.m. It has been steadily ringing all day from former Hege clients wanting to know what they can do."

Cella and other staff members have been taking complaints for several months. Some of those complainants and three or four new ones called or visited the office Friday.

Kilpatrick claims she gave Hege $500 in October of 2001 to handle her bankruptcy case. The $500 was a large sum of money, she said, for someone already considering bankruptcy.

"He told me to pay what I could and he would add the rest to the bankruptcy," Kilpatrick said. "When I received my quarterly (report) from the court, it said $1,190 that I would pay Hege, not $500."

Kilpatrick claims she made payments to the bankruptcy court. However, Kilpatrick said Hege called her at work to tell her that she was not making payments like she should.

"He said the bankruptcy court had called and for me to come by his office and make a payment," Kilpatrick said. "I did that and then the next month is was the same thing. Those two payments did not make it to court."

In April, Kilpatrick, who had two small children at the time, woke up to find a man attempting to repossess her car.

"I didn't let him take it and he came back the next afternoon and I still wouldn't let him take it," Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick said she contacted Hege both days and he told her he would check into the situation. The next week, she said, her car was taken at 6:30 a.m.

"I was a single parent with two kids at the time," Kilpatrick said. "He left me with no way to get my kids to school or myself to work that morning."

Kilpatrick credits Hege's secretary at the time for helping her get her car back.

Kilpatrick said that when she originally filed for bankruptcy, she was three months behind on her mobile home payments and that Hege filed five payments for her after she hired him.

"He told me not to make a payment until he said so," Kilpatrick said. "The next thing I know I got a foreclosure letter on my trailer stating that I needed to pay $4,000 by a certain date or I was going to lose my home."

Shanna Martinez of Tifton, mother of four, said she hired Hege in October 2001 and paid him $500 to start bankruptcy paperwork. She said her case was dismissed after she lost her 1996 Ford Thunderbird.

"I guess they were going to dismiss it because why should I pay for something I don't have," Martinez said.

"Mr. Hege never filed the papers for bankruptcy," Martinez said. "I've been able to keep my furniture so far, but they have closed my accounts out so that is leaving me with bad credit.

"Emotionally it scares me because I don't think I can trust another attorney," she said. "I was pregnant at the time and I had lost a job. I sought bankruptcy protection and I think he just took an easy ride and I am the one who got it. The only thing that scares me is that he will get out and do this to more people."

Martinez said she just happened to see the State Bar of Georgia office sign and Cella advised her.

Edward Edmondson, a former client of Hege's, said he and his wife Dana first sought Hege's advice because they wanted to consolidate their bills and seek lawful protection from creditors by filing bankruptcy.

"It wasn't that we just wanted to get out of what we were responsible for," Mr. Edmondson said. "Bankruptcy is supposed to be a way to do it right."

Edmondson said he and his wife paid Hege $2,000 since July of 2000.

"He set our payments up for the court at $525 a month and I sent that to the bankruptcy court in Atlanta," Mr. Edmondson said. "That was defeating the purpose because the payments were too high."

Edmondson said he spoke with Hege a couple of months ago about the high payments.

"He (Hege) told us not to contact the trustee in Atlanta but to call him first," Edmondson said. "But we contacted the court trustee in Atlanta and he told me that the payments should never have been that high to start with.

"I never would have gone to him (Hege) if I had known he had the past he does," Edmondson said, referring to Hege's prior federal conviction for tax evasion.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.0

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