Joplin Attorney Sentenced for Stealing $576,000 from Clients
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., attorney was sentenced in federal court today for stealing more than $576,000 from his clients.
Daniel D. Whitworth, 59, of Joplin, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to two years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Whitworth to pay $404,957 in additional restitution to his former clients and $72,810 to the government. Whitworth has surrendered his license to practice law in any and all jurisdictions.
Whitworth was the owner of a law practice in Joplin and practiced law for more than 33 years. On March 31, 2014, Whitworth pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and false statements on tax returns. Whitworth admitted that he embezzled approximately $576,739 from 22 of his legal clients between 2004 and Oct. 18, 2013. Whitworth spent these embezzled funds on personal loans and items unrelated to the legal matters of his clients.
Law enforcement officers investigated complaints made to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Missouri Supreme Court about Whitworth’s theft of client money. Investigators determined from bank records and speaking with former clients that Whitworth repeatedly took money from and for clients. He claimed that money would be used to resolve the matter that the client had pending before the court. In many instances, Whitworth deposited the client’s money either into his attorney trust account or into his personal bank accounts. After depositing his client’s money, Whitworth would then withdraw money and pay for personal expenses and items that were entirely unrelated to his client’s legal case.
According to court documents, Whitworth’s criminal conduct occurred over many years, beginning in 2006 when he entered a partnership to own a bar in Joplin and continuing for at least seven years. He embezzled money from at least 26 different clients, according to court documents, including the estates and trusts of the deceased and their families, individuals who were injured and seeking compensation through the courts and other criminal defendants seeking representation within the criminal justice system.
Whitworth also admitted that he failed to report the embezzled funds on his personal income tax returns for the years 2009-2011, which the plea agreement says totaled $448,835. Whitworth did not file an income tax return for 2012, according to the plea agreement, and therefore did not report the embezzled funds during this year as well.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol and IRS-Criminal Investigation.