White-Collar Crime

Denied a pay raise, lawyer stole $15K from firm as he 'spiraled down'

Told he would not be made partner, or even get a pay raise, despite handling all of the litigation for the small Massachusetts law firm for which he worked, a former associate tried another approach.

Matthew McDonough, now 41, stole $15,000 in legal fees that should have gone to the Law Offices of Sherwood Guernsey in 2010, reports the Berkshire Eagle. His lawyer said he has since repaid the money.

After lecturing McDonough, who pleaded guilty on Thursday to larceny, about having violated his professional oath and the “awesome responsibility” he had assumed as an attorney, Central Berkshire District Judge Judge Charles W. Groce III gave him a one-year suspended sentence rather than requiring him to serve time. He said he believed the tearful attorney had committed the crime out of “anger, resentment and a sense of entitlement.”

McDonough’s former boss, Sherwood Guernsey, and the prosecutor in the case, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano, had asked for jail time. Guernsey cited dozens of other cases which he contended his former associate had mishandled and then tried to cover up what he had done wrong, including an accident case brought on behalf of the partner’s son-in-law, which had been dismissed.

McDonough’s lawyer, Timothy J. Shugrue, said his client had “spiraled down” after becoming overwhelmed by his work, but had since sought psychiatric help and done what he could to rectify the situation..

McDonough, whose license has been suspended, has lost his career, his wife and his home, and has been humiliated by publicity over the case, Shugrue told the judge, arguing against incarceration.

He said McDonough has been doing landscaping work and recently started a job with a concrete manufacturer.

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