Law Firms

Lawyer accused of $26M embezzlement will be proven 'a thief and a liar,' prosecutor says

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The former managing partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider lived a lavish lifestyle financed by $26 million taken from his law firm, a prosecutor alleged in his opening statement on Monday.

Nathan Hardwick IV spent $18 million on gambling, private jets and women, prosecutors allege. He allegedly took the money from the firm’s operating and trust accounts with the help of Asha Maurya, the firm’s chief financial officer. The Daily Report has stories on the trial here and here, while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story here.

Morris Hardwick Schneider, a real estate closing firm, once had 800 employees in 16 states. The firm filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

Maurya pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud after she was accused of stealing $900,000 from the firm. She is cooperating with the government.

Prosecutor J. Russell Phillips told jurors on Monday that the evidence will show Hardwick is “a thief and a liar,” and he chose Maurya as his “partner in crime.”

Hardwick’s lawyer, Ed Garland, countered that Hardwick was deceived by Maurya, who had “fooled the accountants.” Garland said Hardwick was “a big picture guy” who wasn’t involved in the accounting.

Garland pointed out that Hardwick owned 55 percent of the law firm and said the case was based on the mistaken notion that he had a motive to steal from his own firm.

Hardwick’s former partner Art Morris testified Tuesday that Hardwick had reaped $15 million after his firm, Jackson & Hardwick, merged in 2005 with Morris’ firm, then known as Morris & Schneider. The money came from the sale of an REO division to a private equity firm, according to Daily Report coverage. Yet Morris learned that Hardwick had financial difficulties by about 2008 when the firm began getting calls from banks.

Morris said he gave Hardwick $750,000 to pay for some “personal obligations” because it was important to him that Hardwick stay financially solvent.

Related article: “Former law firm managing partner is indicted for alleged $20M embezzlement”

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