Friday, October 14, 2011

Title/Closing Attorney Enters Guilty Plea In $1M+ Escrow Funds Ripoff; Surrenders Law License, Ends 44-Year Career With Thud

In Henrico County, Virginia, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports:

  • A Henrico County lawyer pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $1 million in Bank of America mortgage and foreclosure funds and will be sentenced in January.(1) In a brief hearing, William Orr Smith, 71, appeared in Henrico Circuit Court and pleaded guilty; Smith's lawyer has said for months that Smith would not contest the charges and that he has cooperated with authorities.

  • Smith also cooperated with Virginia State Bar investigators in a separate investigation and surrendered his law license in June.

  • Special Prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland said Wednesday that Smith's law practice and his Montbrook Title LLC grew rapidly five years ago during the housing boom, at one point swelling to as many as a dozen employees.

  • That growth found Smith with shortages of cash as the business grew, and Smith began using money from different accounts to make payments on immediate obligations, Thorne-Begland said. The scheme lasted about five years and began to collapse as the housing market collapsed.

  • Thorne-Begland said there is no evidence that Smith diverted embezzled funds into his private holdings or to embellish his lifestyle, but he said he will ask for a sentence above sentencing guidelines, which could come in under less than a year.

  • Smith, of [...] western Henrico, had practiced law for 44 years. Also charged is Donna M. Allen, 37, of Dinwiddie County, a secretary to Smith, who is accused of extorting about $20,000 from him by threatening to tell authorities about his scheme.

Source: Henrico lawyer pleads guilty to theft.

(1) The Virginia State Bar's Clients' Protection Fund was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to misappropriation or embezzle­ment by a Florida-licensed 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.

No comments: