Attorney allegedly used courts to obtain money under false pretenses

By: - February 10, 2023 1:24 pm

While questioned by a judge in court Thursday, attorney J. Scott MacDonald invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. (MacDonald 2020 campaign photo)

Clark County Judge Maria Gall is ordering Las Vegas attorney J. Scott MacDonald to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for allegedly using the courts to obtain “funds that do not belong to him and/or that he was not authorized to receive on behalf of a client…” 

Gall says she’s also notifying the Nevada Bar of MacDonald’s alleged acts, which include petitioning the court to distribute $80,000 under a false pretense.  

MacDonald filed a motion in District Court in December to have $80,000 released on behalf of Jerald and Eva Wheat, who he claimed in court documents were his clients. 

A foreclosure sale of the Wheats’ home garnered more than they owed on the first lien, but the Wheats never claimed their remaining equity.  National Default Servicing Corporation, which conducts foreclosures, filed an interpleading lawsuit, notifying the Wheats they were entitled to the money. 

In January, Gall approved MacDonald’s motion to distribute the funds to his office, but says she was immediately contacted by attorney Christopher Connell, who had been retained by Mrs. Wheat’s family. Connell told Gall the Wheats never hired MacDonald and that MacDonald admitted it.

Gall said Connell told her “he had spoken with Mr. MacDonald and Mr. MacDonald had admitted to him that he had never been retained by either of the two defendants.”

Connell said in court Thursday that MacDonald told him he appeared on behalf of the Wheats with the intention of holding the money until the Wheats claimed it. 

MacDonald, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the Family Court bench, did not respond to requests for comment. 

While questioned by Gall in court Thursday, MacDonald invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to say whether he was hired by the Wheats. He was represented by  Gregory Wilde, who has frequently represented National Default Servicing Corporation, which routinely files cases to notify former homeowners, such as the Wheats, of the money they are owed. 

In Dec. 2020, Judge Jim Crockett approved the distribution of $23,983 to MacDonald on behalf of Alan Foldy. On Friday, Foldy told the Current he does not know MacDonald and never hired him. He said he thought any opportunity to recoup funds from his foreclosure had passed.  

“A lot of people don’t know that after foreclosure they’re entitled to their excess proceeds after the first lien is extinguished, or paid off,” says Connell, who says he was contacted by a relative of the elderly Wheats, notified of MacDonald’s alleged unsolicited involvement, and retained to represent Eva Wheat. 

Connell told Gall he’s found “several cases” in which MacDonald petitioned for money on behalf of people he didn’t represent. 

“These allegations are very serious. And so I don’t know what you have advised your friend – whether or not he should speak,” Gall says to attorney Wilde in a video of the proceeding produced by the watchdog organization Our Nevada Judges. “But one thing I want to know is if what Mr. Connell is saying is true.”

Wilde said he advised MacDonald to invoke the Fifth Amendment and told Gall he was unaware of his client’s alleged involvement.  Wilde has also failed to respond to requests for comment.

Note: The original version of this story said MacDonald and Wilde are partners. The two have separate practices.  

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.