Former Port Orchard, Washington attorney sentenced to prison for defrauding clients
Stole money intended for a children’s hospital, then stole $500,000 from another client to hide previous theft
Tacoma – A former Port Orchard, Washington attorney, who stole a bequest left by a client for the benefit of a children’s hospital, and then defrauded a close friend, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 18 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Darlene Piper, 57, of Bremerton, Washington pleaded guilty on August 30, 2021. Piper was indicted in September 2020, following a multi-year fraudulent scheme. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan said Piper “became a thief and a crook” through “a long series of criminal acts.” In addition to her financial victim Judge Bryan said “the legal profession is a victim as well.”
According to records filed in the case, Piper practiced law in Port Orchard, handling wills, trusts and probate of estates. In 2011, she prepared a will for a client who left his entire estate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. However, when that client died in 2014, Piper as executor of the estate, stole $500,000 from the estate and invested it in Paraguay. When the children’s hospital inquired about the funds it was owed, Piper stole from a friend to repay the hospital. She told the friend that she had invested the money in Paraguay. The victim had just sold a home, and the money was for her retirement. The victim sued Piper and won. Piper has not paid the victim any of the money awarded through the litigation.
In sentencing documents prosecutors described how Piper continues to falsify her finances. She failed to list homes she owns in Cabo San Lucas and property on the coast of Mexico as assets that could be liquidated to pay her victims.
Judge Bryan ordered Piper to sell the waterfront property within 6 months to compensate her victims. He ordered her to pay restitution of $500,000.
Piper had already given up her law license and bar membership, after the Washington State Bar Association was poised to sanction her for stealing $42,000 from two other clients.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Dion, and by former Assistant United States Attorneys Arlen Storm and Andre Penalver.