White-Collar Crime

Too Embarrassed to Make Layoffs, Lawyer Stole $9.3M, Gets 7 Years


Too embarrassed to admit that he’d suffered financial reverses and make layoffs, a well-known Arkansas plaintiffs attorney instead admittedly stole $9.3 million from client trust funds he controlled to keep his law firm going.

“I built several businesses. I went through a cash-flow crisis,” Steven Eugene Cauley told U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty at his sentencing in New York. “Rather than swallow my pride and lay off dozens of people, rather than embarrassing myself, this is what I did.”

Calling Cauley’s argument for probation, so that he could pay $8.8 million still due in restitution, “bold and brazen,” Crotty sentenced the class-action lawyer to seven years and two months in federal prison, reports Bloomberg.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Stellmach contended in court filings that Cauley used client funds to help pay for a lavish lifestyle and said this wasn’t the first he’d stolen, just the first time he got caught.

As detailed in previous ABAJournal.com posts, Cauley pleaded guilty earlier this year to fraud and criminal contempt and surrendered his law license, admitting that he “took a shortcut” when he needed money to run his law firm that hadn’t yet come in.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Once Set for Life, Ark. Plaintiffs Lawyer Takes Plea in $9.3M Client Theft Case”

ABAJournal.com: “Bank Battles Law Firm Over Ex-Lawyer’s Right to Millions in Contingent Fees”

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