White-Collar Crime

Disbarred lawyer who stole from his own mother and others gets 44 months in federal prison

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A now-disbarred Missouri lawyer who fled the U.S. last year, leaving his law practice in disarray, was sentenced Thursday to three years and eight months in federal prison for stealing $234,000 from his own mother and others.

Jeffrey Witt, now 40, had been hit with a legal ethics case, a drunken driving case and a nearly $1 million malpractice judgment when he disappeared in October of last year. In September of last year, he obtained a $100,000 home equity line of credit against his mother’s home by having a client impersonate her. His mother had reported the alleged fraud to authorities by the time Witt went on the lam, visiting the Philippines, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

After returning to the U.S. from Istanbul in March, intending to visit his girlfriend in New York, Witt himself said depression and threats and beatings by a client’s son had contributed to his decision to leave. His lawyer, JoAnn Trog, said mental health issues and romantic and professional setbacks had combined to create tremendous pressure on her client, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

However, federal prosecutors in the aggravated identity theft and bank and mail fraud case said Witt had been misappropriating for years, taking money for his own benefit from a family trust he oversaw and secretly cashing client checks.

Witt pleaded guilty in July in the St. Louis case and was disbarred in June, according to Missouri Lawyers Weekly (sub. req.).

Related coverage:

Courthouse News: “Attorney Admits He Stole From Mom & Clients”

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