Former Whidbey Island Lawyer Convicted of Mail Fraud
Peter A. Moote Admits to Embezzling Client Funds
PORTLAND, Ore. - Peter Allen Moote, 63, formerly of Whidbey Island, Washington, pleaded guilty today in Seattle before United States Magistrate Judge Brian A. Tsuchida to defrauding clients from the 1990s through early 2011. Moote admitted to embezzling more than $1 million of client funds through a mail fraud scheme. Sentencing is scheduled for June 22, 2012, before U. S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez in Seattle, Washington.
Moote practiced law on Whidbey Island for many years, representing clients in connection with personal injury, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other cases. He negotiated settlements for many clients, and received settlement checks on their behalf. Moote admitted that he embezzled more than $1 million in client settlement funds, and that he used those funds to pay his personal living expenses, his family's living expenses, law firm expenses, mortgage payments, and for gambling, among other things. Moote resigned from the Washington State Bar in November 2010.
Moote pleaded guilty today to one count of mail fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. As part of the plea agreement, Moote has agreed to pay restitution to his client victims, in an amount to be determined at the time of sentencing. A receivership has been set up in Island County Superior Court to collect and divide Moote's assets among his victims.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Seattle, Washington. The case was referred by the Island County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Island County Sheriff's Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Claire M. Fay and Stacie Beckerman from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon are handling the prosecution, because the U.S. Department of Justice recused the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington from the case, due to a conflict.