Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lawyer Who Dodged Bar Boot By Voluntarily Relinquishing Law License In Advance Gets 3 Years Prison Time For Filching Over $950K From Terminally Ill & Dead Clients (& Their Heirs) In Estate Settlements & Real Property Transactions; Prosecutor: Attorney's Actions "Fractured Families", "Leaving [Victims'] Children To Sort Thru Financial Wreckage After Their Parents' Death"

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Connecticut Law Tribune reports:
  • A former Fairfield attorney who defrauded clients of more than $950,000 was sentenced in federal court Monday [May 8] to three years in prison with three years of supervised release.(1)

    According to documents provided by the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, 53-year-old John O'Brien admitted to defrauding clients between April 2011 and June 2014 by using funds from one client to pay off debts owed to others. In one instance, O'Brien used $31,000 in client funds to pay his son's tuition to a private high school, according to court documents.

    O'Brien, who resigned from the Connecticut bar in June 2015, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in December.

    Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall ordered the government to submit a proposed restitution order within two weeks while sentencing O'Brien.

    In the government's sentencing memorandum, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut said O'Brien "preyed" on his victims. Federal prosecutors asked for 41-51 months in prison.

    O'Brien "exploited his role as an attorney to steal nearly $1 million from clients who entrusted their life savings to him and relied upon him to conduct business transactions in a timely and ethical manner," according to the memorandum.

    The memo continues, "He preyed on these unsuspecting victims, draining the estates of three elderly clients and leaving their children to sort through financial wreckage after their parents' death. The emotional fallout from O'Brien's actions has fractured families and caused unnecessary hardship to the heirs of the estates."

    The bulk of the fraud was perpetrated against an individual who lost more than $700,000.

    According to the government, O'Brien accepted $467,248 in his Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account (ILOTA) as proceeds of a reverse mortgage taken by the client and his wife, both of whom are now deceased. The reverse mortgage funds were intended to pay debts associated with the client's family business, but O'Brien only dispersed $204,000 between June 2012 and February 2014.

    In addition, O'Brien received $194,636 in July 2013 from bank accounts held in the name of his client and one of his client's children, but only $104,008 was distributed. And, in April 2014, O'Brien accepted $837,250 into his IOLTA fund as proceeds of a sale of his client's property, but only $470,000 was disbursed.

    In another case, O'Brien deposited $74,250 from a client into his IOLTA fund, but the money was never disbursed, according to the government.

    O'Brien targeted four families in total, the government said.
Source: Attorney Gets Prison Sentence for Bilking Clients of Nearly $1M (may require subscription; if no subscription, TRY HERE, then click appropriate link for the story).

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Former Attorney Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Defrauding Clients of More Than $900K.
(1) In Connecticut, the Client Security Fund is a fund established by the rules of the Connecticut Superior Court to provide reimbursement to individuals who have lost money or property as a result of the dishonest conduct of an attorney practicing law in the State of Connecticut, in the course of the attorney-client relationship. The fund provides a remedy for clients who are unable to obtain reimbursement for their loss from any other source.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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