Criminal Justice

Disbarred attorney stole more than half of client’s settlement, prosecutors say

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A disbarred Pennsylvania attorney faces felony theft charges after prosecutors accused him of misappropriating more than $563,000 from a client who was seriously injured in a car crash.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced the charges Thursday against 50-year-old disbarred Warrington attorney Michael Bradley. He is accused of commingling insurance settlement funds awarded to his client Branden Thornton and using them to fund his home renovations, vacations, plastic surgery and other personal expenses.

“The defendant’s theft of more than half a million dollars – funds that were dedicated to helping his client receive the care he needed to live – which he used to pay for extravagant goods and vacations, is not only illegal but disturbing on a basic human level,” Steele said in a prepared statement.

Bradley’s attorney, William Brennan, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had known his client for 30 years.

“He’s been totally cooperative with this investigation, and when I have the opportunity to review the discovery in this case, we will decide on an appropriate way to resolve this matter,” Brennan said.

Thornton had received more than $1.1 million after he was injured by a vehicle in September 2012 as he was walking along a road in Upper Merion, a township in southeast Pennsylvania, according to Steele’s office.

Thornton was 18 at the time, the Inquirer reports, and was left with a traumatic brain injury that put him into a coma for three months. After he recovered, he needed around-the-clock care, says the newspaper, citing an affidavit.

For his work representing Thornton, Bradley received $276,250, or 25%, of his client’s award, according to Steele’s office.

Investigators allege Bradley placed the funds earmarked for Thornton’s care in his bank account, using the money to pay college tuition, student loans and vehicle payments, and for hundreds of purchases on Amazon.

The Inquirer says Bradley’s purchases included a new driveway at the lawyer’s home, vacations in Key West and $10,000 for plastic surgery.

Steele’s office noted that Bradley was disbarred in February 2019 after Thornton’s mother, Tammy Howard, filed a complaint against him with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Bradley was arraigned on multiple first-degree felony charges including receiving stolen property and theft. He was released on a $250,000 bond. and Law360 also covered the charges.

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