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Press Release

Disbarred Attorney William O’Brien Imprisoned For Misusing Client Funds

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

The United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that William O’Brien, 60, a former attorney who lives in Winooski, was sentenced today in United States District Court in Brattleboro to 14 months of imprisonment following his guilty plea to a charge of mail fraud. U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha also ordered that O’Brien serve a one-year term of supervised release following completion of his prison term and pay restitution totaling $19,699. The court ordered that O’Brien surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on September 5 to begin serving his sentence.

On October 13, 2016, the United States filed a criminal information charging O’Brien with one count of mail fraud, the charge to which O’Brien pled guilty. The information charged O’Brien with defrauding two former law clients. In one case, O’Brien became the trustee of a trust established by the clients. As trustee, O’Brien was to use trust funds to make charitable contributions in the memory of the clients. Between 2008 and 2013, O’Brien did make a number of contributions of trust funds in the total amount of $97,500, but also improperly diverted about $139,000 in trust funds to his law firm account. In another case, O’Brien received in his capacity as attorney more than $247,000 in client funds, which were also meant to be used for charitable purposes. Although O’Brien did make one contribution of $15,000, he again used the remaining funds for his own benefit.

In early 2016, O’Brien did repay about $472,000 to these two clients, but those payments were made only after O’Brien became aware he was under investigation by counsel for the Vermont bar. The Vermont Supreme Court suspended O’Brien’s law license in January 2016 and disbarred him last December.

In addition to defrauding the two clients referred to in the charging information, O’Brien also misappropriated smaller amounts of money from five other clients. The court’s restitution order requires O’Brien to repay those clients in full.

This case was investigated by the Burlington Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Vermont Judiciary’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

O’Brien is represented by Scott McGee of Norwich. The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples.

Updated July 19, 2017

Financial Fraud