Lawyer gets 8 years for secretly settling clients' cases and diverting money to himself
A suspended Georgia personal injury lawyer was sentenced this week to eight years in federal prison for secretly settling clients’ cases and diverting more than $1 million in proceeds to himself.
The government said the Vidalia practitioner provided clients with phony case updates after he settled their matters without their knowledge. Meanwhile, he deposited the settlement checks to his trust account, forging their signatures, and then withdrew the money for his own use. The conduct took place between 2013 and early 2015.
The scheme came to light after a client called the court clerk directly for a case update and discovered it had been dismissed some time earlier.
Smith was also ordered to pay $1.285 million in restitution.