White-Collar Crime

Lawyer stole $4.8M, duped banks with worthless checks and credit-card payments

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While still in practice, a former Virginia lawyer took advantage of multiple banks, two bankruptcy clients, his wife and his mother in a series of schemes that brought in over $4.8 million, he admits in a stipulated court filing.

In a new twist on a fraudulent-check scheme that has snared a number of attorneys tricked into depositing fake settlement checks into their firms’ accounts, Michael Lawrence Eisner, 32, deposited big-bucks checks that he knew were worthless. Then he quickly withdrew large sums before the banks caught on to the fraud, explains the July 15 filing (PDF) in the Eastern District of Virginia case.

Within a two-day period in March 2012, for instance, Eisner withdrew more than $200,000 from several Bank of America branches after depositing worthless checks drawn on an account set up in the name of an unwitting bankruptcy client. The client had no idea his identity was being misused by Eisner and Mark Head, a former client and friend who took a plea earlier in a related case, according to the filing and a FBI press release.

Eisner also admitted misusing credit cards by making payments from accounts that lacked funds, so he could rack up new charges against the available credit supposedly created by the fake payments. That added up to another $500,000 or so in bank losses, the documents say. At least one of the accounts belonged to his wife, who knew nothing about the scheme. His mother was similarly victimized.

Meanwhile, two bankruptcy clients were persuaded by the then-practitioner to liquidate assets and put the money in Eisner’s hands. Instead of using the money to pay their creditors, as he had promised, Eisner spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for for his own purposes, the documents say.

He is represented by the federal public defender’s office in the wire fraud case and could get as much as 20 years when he is sentenced in October.

Eisner’s public defender, Kevin Brehm, did not immediately respond to a Monday phone message from the ABA Journal seeking comment.

Online biographical information says Eisner earned his law degree from George Mason University. He practiced under the Northern Virginia Law Group flag in McLean, before giving up his license.

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