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State high court suspends ABQ attorney for 90 days

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico Supreme Court justices have barred an Albuquerque attorney from practicing law for 90 days after finding that he attempted to avoid paying a legal judgment by shifting assets between companies he owned.

The suspension of William Ferguson’s law license went beyond the recommendation of the disciplinary board that recommended only that Ferguson be publicly censured.

Chief Justice Michael Vigil told Ferguson at a hearing on Wednesday that justices felt strongly that a 90-day suspension was “a very light discipline in this case.”

Justices also required Ferguson to take a professional responsibility exam no later than Aug. 31 and score at least 80%. Vigil said justices unanimously agreed with the findings of the disciplinary board that Ferguson had attempted to improperly shield assets after one of his companies was ordered to pay a $232,000 civil judgment in 2018.

Reinstatement of Ferguson’s law license also requires than no additional disciplinary charges are filed against him in regard to the judgment.

“We sincerely hope that we do not see you here again regarding these proceedings,” Vigil told Ferguson.

Ferguson did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment, and his attorney, John Brant, declined to comment Friday.

At the time of the judgment, Ferguson was majority owner of Motiva Performance Engineering LLC, a high-performance auto shop that specialized in modifying vehicles, according to the disciplinary board’s report.

In 2014, Ferguson bought a $200,000 Ferrari and registered the car to Motiva, the disciplinary board found. By so doing, Ferguson avoided paying a $6,000 excise tax on the vehicle, the report said.

In 2017, a vehicle owner sued Motiva alleging the firm had damaged one of his vehicles. He won a $232,000 judgment against Motiva in October 2018.

Four days after the verdict, Ferguson transferred the Ferrari out of Motiva’s name and registered it to another company he owned, according to the report.

This action was intended to avoid seizure of the Ferrari to satisfy the judgment against Motiva, according to the report. The value of the vehicle was about $140,000 at the time, the board wrote.

Motiva ceased operations in December 2018 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in November 2019.

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