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Press Release

Anaconda Attorney Sentenced to 42 Months in Prison for Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

MISSOULA – David Michael McLean, 75, of Anaconda, MT, was sentenced today in Missoula federal court.  In August, McLean pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Jeremiah Lynch to two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Whaley, of the Eastern District of Washington, Sentenced McLean to 18 months on the wire fraud counts—to run concurrently—and an additional 24 months on the aggravated identity theft charge for a total of 42 months.  McLean will also have to serve three years of supervised release and pay an as yet undetermined amount of restitution.  McLean was charged by indictment in July with five counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Racicot stated in court documents that if called upon to prove its case at trial, the United States would have been prepared to demonstrate that McLean embezzled money from his clients and from the Montana Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) from 2009 until 2014.  During that time, McLean stole approximately $465,614 from his clients and $62,325 from ABOTA.  He later incrementally repaid $29,611 of the ABOTA funds.  McLean served as ABOTA’s secretary/treasurer during this period.

McLean wrote checks from ABOTA’s account to himself or his law firm, signing his own name as treasurer and forging another ABOTA officer’s signature, and deposited the checks in his own firm’s operating account.  McLean stole money from his clients by settling cases without the client’s knowledge or consent, retaining the proceeds in accounts he controlled, and lying to his clients about the status of their cases.  He also forged his clients’ names on settlement documents.  This fraudulent behavior was ultimately discovered in July of 2014.  McLean subsequently admitted his fraud and reported himself to the State Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel (“ODC”).  As a result of the ODC investigation, McLean was ultimately disbarred by the Montana Supreme Court in March of 2015.

In its his sentencing memo on behalf of the United States, Assistant U.S. Attorney Racicot emphasized the significance of McLean’s breach of trust both to the organization of which he was an officer and more particularly to his clients.  The memo stressed the importance of the sentence in sending a deterrent message to other attorneys who might be tempted to misappropriate client funds.

“The duty of loyalty an attorney holds on behalf of his clients is a sacred one, and McLean breached that duty,” said United States Attorney Mike Cotter.  “Because we belong to a largely self-policing profession—one moreover in which we are entrusted with the most sensitive personal and financial information of our clients—It is vital that a breach of this severity be punished appropriately.  Pure and simple, Attorney McLean broke the law.  The court’s sentence reflects the gravity of McLean’s offense and sends a message to the broader legal community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Racicot and investigated by the FBI.

Updated December 4, 2015

Identity Theft
Press Release Number: MELISSA HORNBEIN, Public Information Officer, (406) 457-5277