Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sticky-Fingered Attorney Gets 11 1/2 To 23 Months Jail Time After Coming Clean To Pilfering Over $96.5K From Clients

In Montgomery County, Pennslyvania, The Times Herald reports:
  • An apologetic former Norristown lawyer admitted to stealing more than $90,000 from clients and faces time behind bars for his conduct.

    Craig Kellerman, 57, who once had a law office in the first block of East Marshall Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday [May 2] to 11 ½ to 23 months in the county jail after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received in connection with incidents that occurred between 2015 and 2016.

    Judge Gary S. Silow, who accepted a plea agreement in the matter, also ordered Kellerman to complete five years’ probation following parole, meaning Kellerman will be under court supervision for about seven years. The judge ordered Kellerman to pay a total of $96,500 in restitution in connection with the case.

    As he learned his fate, Kellerman, who is widely known in Montgomery County legal circles, apologized for his conduct but did not offer a reason for the thefts. Kellerman, who was represented by defense lawyer Keith Harbison, declined to comment further as he was escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies on his way to complete his jail term.

    With the charges, prosecutors alleged Kellerman pocketed $40,000 that a client he represented in a criminal matter had turned over to him and which Kellerman was supposed to put toward the client’s restitution in the criminal case. Additionally, Kellerman pocketed more than $50,000 that was part of a settlement awarded to a client he represented in a civil matter, according to prosecutors.

    “Mr. Kellerman kept the money and used it for his own benefit,” said county Assistant District Attorney Christopher Daniels, who sought jail time against Kellerman.

    “Mr. Kellerman was a respected, long-time lawyer in Norristown and all lawyers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, all of us, we all take oaths and we all have duties to our clients and Mr. Kellerman violated those duties here,” Daniels said.

    Kellerman’s conviction will be reported to the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and he potentially faces being disbarred for his conduct. Currently, Kellerman’s law license is under temporary suspension, officials said.

    An investigation began in July 2016 when the client Kellerman represented in a criminal matter reported to Norristown police that he had given $40,000 to Kellerman that was supposed to be held in escrow for future payment of restitution but which was spent by Kellerman, according to a criminal complaint.

    Investigators later became aware of the additional civil client who was “defrauded” by Kellerman, according to the arrest affidavit filed by Norristown Detective Corporal Nicholas Dumas.

    Kellerman has been in jail since Dec. 15, 2016, and will receive credit for that time served, according to the plea agreement.
Source: Norristown lawyer jailed for stealing $96K from clients.
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(1) The Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients (at least partially, if not fully) who have suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pennsylvania attorney.

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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