Easthampton Attorney Pleads Guilty to Financial Fraud Charges
BOSTON – An Easthampton attorney pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Springfield to numerous financial fraud charges.
Phillip R. Williams, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of wire fraud, two counts of engaging in financial transactions greater than $10,000 of proceeds derived from criminal activity, six counts of money laundering and two counts of tax fraud. Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for March 26, 2019.
As a licensed attorney, Williams maintained various bank accounts, including Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, and was required to hold funds with the care required of a professional fiduciary, for the exclusive benefit of his clients.
In 2014, Williams engaged in numerous personal transactions with $453,695 belonging to two individuals who had transferred the funds into one of Williams’s Lawyer’s Trust Accounts for purposes of obtaining a bank loan. In April 2015, Williams failed to report the stolen money on his 2014 individual federal income tax return, and then again failed to report it on his amended return.
Between April 14, 2015 and Nov. 1, 2017, Williams received $230,500 from a client in three checks to purchase land. Williams deposited these funds into his bank accounts, but he did not use the funds to purchase land for the client, and instead engaged in various personal transactions with the money. In 2018, Williams sent e-mails to the client that falsely indicated that he had used the money to purchase land.
Between June 2, 2017 and October 17, 2018, Williams fraudulently obtained loans in the name of the client and his company from two commercial lenders. For the loans, Williams falsely witnessed or notarized the forged signature of the client, who did not authorize or even know about the fraudulent loan applications. As a result, one of the lenders lent a total of $340,000, and the other lent a total of $334,000. Williams received four wire transfers of loan proceeds to his bank accounts totaling $379,888, which he spent for his own personal use. In February 2019, after one of the commercial lenders sought repayment of its loans, Williams sent fraudulent e-mails attaching a mortgage on his home that bore the falsely notarized and forged signature of his ex-wife, a false pre-approval letter for a loan to his mother that bore the forged signature of a bank officer, and a false power of attorney that bore the forged signature of the client.
In addition, between Feb. 1, 2019 and March 31, 2019, Williams defrauded a private investment firm of approximately $1.1 million, and attempted to defraud another private investment firm of approximately $1.2 million, both concerning his purchase of a property in Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Lastly, between Jan. 16, 2019 and March 2, 2019, Williams attempted to defraud three other commercial lenders by obtaining loans (in the amounts of $1.365 million, $1.35 million, and $1.7 million), either on behalf of his client or himself, to purchase a property in Boston.
The charges of wire fraud and money laundering provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charges of engaging in financial transactions greater than $10,000 provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charges of tax fraud provide for a sentence of up to three years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $100,000. Sentences are imposed based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent In Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New England Field Division; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office is prosecuting the case.