Former Whidbey Island Lawyer Sentenced to 48 Months in Prison
Peter A. Moote Embezzled $2 Million in Client Funds
SEATTLE, Wash. - U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sentenced on September 21, 2012, Peter Allen Moote, 64, formerly of Whidbey Island, Washington, to serve a 48-month prison sentence, followed by three years of supervised release, for stealing approximately $2 million from his clients from the 1990s through early 2011.
Moote pleaded guilty to mail fraud on March 26, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and admitted to embezzling client funds through a fraud scheme. 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 transferred settlement checks from his client trust account to his law firm or personal accounts, and then used the client 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 lieu of disbarment, in November 2010.
Judge Martinez also ordered Moote to pay full restitution to his clients, the specific amount to be determined at a December 7, 2012 hearing. A receivership has been set up in Island County Superior Court to collect and divide Moote's assets among his victims. The Washington State Bar Association's Lawyers - Fund for Client Protection has made payments to Moote's client victims totaling approximately $800,000, to date.
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 handled the prosecution as Special Attorneys, 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.