White-Collar Crime

Longtime Lawyer, 72, Gets 3 Years in $1M Embezzlement

A longtime Virginia lawyer was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for embezzling $1 million from a Bank of America subsidiary, despite his cooperation with the government and sentencing guidelines that called for a lesser penalty, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

William Orr Smith, 72, stole from LandSafe Inc. not for his own benefit but to keep his company, Montbrook Title LLC, going during an economic crisis that threatened its stability and workers’ jobs, according to his lawyer, Craig S. Cooley. “It was who he was for virtually all his life,” said Cooley of his client’s career.

However, Circuit Judge George F. Tidey apparently agreed with special prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland, who praised Smith for his cooperation but said granting a defense plea for probation in the Henrico County case would have sent the wrong message.

Smith is to begin serving his time later this month. He surrendered his law license in June of last year and is not expected to practice again, according to Cooley.

One of Smith’s former employees faces an extortion charge for allegedly taking $20,000 from the attorney in exchange for agreeing to keep quiet about the embezzlement.

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