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Press Release

Hendersonville, N.C. Attorney Sentenced To Two Years For Wire Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Howard Trade Elkins, 44, of Hendersonville, N.C. was sentenced late yesterday to 24 months in prison on wire fraud charges for embezzling client funds from his law office’s trust account, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Elkins to serve two years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. 

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is making today’s announcement with U.S. Attorney Murray.

According to court filings, plea documents and court proceedings, Elkins was an attorney with a private practice in Hendersonville.  From 2012 to 2017, Elkins engaged in a scheme to embezzle from his law office’s trust account.  During the relevant time period, Elkins served as an attorney for estates of deceased individuals.  Among his duties as the estate attorney, Elkins received funds from various sources into his law firm’s trust account, and used such funds to pay various debts and inheritances as directed.  According to court records, Elkins would, at times, deposit funds from estate clients into his law firm’s trust account, but did not use the funds as directed. Instead, Elkins embezzled the funds and used it to support his own lifestyle, to gamble, to make lulling payments to other victim clients and to satisfy potential debts and demands related to his legal work.

“Elkins’ clients trusted him and relied on him to carry out his duties as their attorney. Instead, Elkins used his law firm’s trust account as his personal piggy bank,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “Elkins’ misconduct is reprehensible and, more importantly, it erodes the public’s trust in our legal system,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.    

Elkins pleaded guilty in November 2017 to wire fraud.  He will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence upon designation of a federal facility.  

The investigation was handled by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.

Updated June 15, 2018

Financial Fraud