Former Real Estate Attorney Sentenced to 66 Months in Prison for Defrauding Clients and Lenders
BOSTON – An former attorney was sentenced today in federal court in Springfield in connection with attempting to defraud and defrauding clients, investment firms and commercial lenders.
Phillip R. Williams, of Easthampton, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 66 months of in prison and three years of supervised release. In December 2019, Williams pleaded guilty to wire fraud, engaging in financial transactions greater than $10,000 of proceeds derived from criminal activity, money laundering and tax fraud.
In his capacity as an attorney, Williams maintained various bank accounts, including Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, at several banks. Williams was required to hold clients’ funds in the Lawyers’ Trust Accounts 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 these 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 in September 2015 Williams again failed to report the stolen money on his amended 2014 individual federal income tax return.
In addition, 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 instead of using those funds to purchase land for the client he engaged in various personal transactions with the money. In order to conceal those personal transactions, Williams sent e-mails to the client that falsely indicated he had used the money to purchase land from at least Nov. 28, 2018 to Dec. 3, 2018,
Between June 2, 2017 and Oct. 17, 2018, Williams fraudulently obtained loans in the name of the client and his company from two commercial lenders: ProBuilder Financial, LLC and Velocity Commercial Capital. For these loans, Williams falsely witnessed or notarized the forged signature of the client, who did not authorize or even know about the fraudulent loan applications. ProBuilder lent a total of $340,000 and Velocity 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 ProBuilder 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.
From Feb. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2019, Williams defrauded a private investment firm, Lore Investment Group, LLC, of approximately $1.1 million and attempted to defraud another private investment firm, Battles Capital Investments, of approximately $1.2 million, both concerning his purchase of a property in Saint Petersburg, Fla.
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 another property in Boston.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent In Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office is prosecuting the case.