Bakersfield Attorney Indicted for Scheme to Defraud Her Clients
FRESNO, Calif. — On Feb. 20, a federal grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against Heather Christiansen Stanley, 47, of Bakersfield, charging her with five counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and one count of attempt to evade and defeat assessment of a tax, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
The indictment was unsealed following Stanley’s arraignment on Wednesday.
According to court documents, Stanley, a divorce attorney in Bakersfield, represented to her clients that she could hold funds for them in a bank account for safekeeping during the pendency of their divorce proceedings. These monies were her clients’ funds and were not owed to Stanley for legal fees or otherwise. Instead of maintaining and protecting these funds, Stanley would use the funds for her own personal gain. Stanley often would not return the funds or would not return the full amount to her clients. In some instances, when Stanley returned the funds to her clients, she used other clients’ funds to make these payments.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Stanley faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire and mail fraud counts and up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine on the tax evasion charge. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.