Former San Antonio Lawyer Christopher John Pettit Indicted on Wire Fraud, Money Laundering
SAN ANTONIO – A federal grand jury in San Antonio returned an indictment Wednesday charging a former San Antonio attorney with wire fraud and money laundering.
According to court documents, Christopher John Pettit, 55, of San Antonio made numerous material misrepresentations to clients to influence certain financial decisions and transactions through his law practice Chris Pettit and Associates, PC. Through false representations via emails, text messages and letters, Pettit allegedly persuaded clients to deposit money with his firm for services such as living trusts, irrevocable trusts, wills and other estate planning services.
The indictment alleges that, using client wired funds, Pettit opened accounts as the trustee, providing himself the ability to access and move the money to his own account. Other fraudulent schemes alleged in the indictment include falsely promising to invest client money in high percentage return bonds and instead wiring the funds to his personal account, and falsely representing himself as a Qualified Intermediary and encouraging clients to wire millions of dollars from asset sales into his own account. According to court documents, Pettit would use his victimized clients’ funds to pay other client debts as well as support an extravagant lifestyle.
Pettit is charged with five counts of wire fraud and three counts of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. The defendant made his initial court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard B. Farrer of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $250,000. Pettit would also be ordered to forfeit all the money, obtained directly and indirectly, for which he is found liable from the counts. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. of the FBI San Antonio Field Office made the announcement. The FBI is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Almonte and Kelly Stephenson are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.