Sunday, July 16, 2017

State Client Protection Fund Recovers $100K In Restitution From Now-Disbarred, Convicted Attorney For Earlier Payments Made To Victimized Law Firm Clients Who Were Ripped Off To Fund $1,000/Day Crack Habit; Defendant Gets Away w/ 10-Day Jail Sentence In Apparent Prison Buyout Deal

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Winston-Salem Journal reports:
  • A disbarred personal-injury lawyer who had offices in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Raleigh was convicted Monday [July 3] on charges he embezzled about $100,000 from clients.

    Devin Ferree Thomas, 47, who lists a Charlotte address in court documents, pleaded guilty in Forsyth Superior Court to six counts of embezzlement. Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court gave Thomas five suspended sentences totaling two years and six months to seven years and one month. Hall placed Thomas on five years of supervised probation, with a number of conditions. Those included a 10-day active jail sentence to be served in the first 100 days and 50 hours of community service that must be completed in the first 180 days.

    Thomas is also subject to random drug tests and warrantless searches and seizures. According to Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, Thomas embezzled thousands of dollars partly to support an addiction to crack cocaine.

    Thomas also paid $100,000 in restitution to the N.C. State Bar Client Security Fund,(1) which reimbursed the people Thomas embezzled money from. Hall ordered Thomas to pay the remaining balance of $3,338 over the next year.

    O’Neill said in court that he requested an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation in March 2016 after Thomas was disbarred. Special Agent Andrew Pappas, who specializes in financial crimes, was called in, O’Neill said.

    Pappas did an audit of Thomas’ law firm and found discrepancies with the accounts of four or five of Thomas’ clients. Much of the money came from settlements in civil lawsuits. The law firm, Devin Thomas Law, focused on automobile accidents, personal injury and worker’s compensation cases.

    O’Neill said the SBI investigation found that Thomas embezzled about $103,000 from clients. He said Thomas used some of the money to support a drug addiction. Thomas would spend $1,000 a day on his drug addiction, O’Neill said.

    According to a March 18, 2016 bar filing, Thomas was accused of transferring at least $109,500 from clients that had been placed in attorney trust accounts to two personal accounts from Oct. 28, 2014, through Feb. 20, 2015. Thomas used some of that money for personal expenditures, including making rental payments for his residence at Winston Factory Loft Apartments, the bar said.
Source: Disbarred Winston-Salem attorney convicted of embezzling $100,000 to fund crack cocaine addiction.
(1) In North Carolina, the Client Security Fund was established by the state's Supreme Court to reimburse clients who have suffered financial loss as the result of dishonest conduct of lawyers engaged in the private practice of law in North Carolina.

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