A former real estate attorney was sentenced to more than five years in prison for a scheme to defraud clients, investment firms and commercial lenders.

Phillip R. Williams, of Easthampton, was sentenced in Springfield federal court last week to 66 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Williams had pleaded guilty in December 2019 to wire fraud, engaging in financial transactions greater than $10,000 of proceeds derived from criminal activity, money laundering and tax fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

According to the statement, Williams maintained various bank accounts, including Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, at several banks. Attorneys are required to hold clients’ funds in Lawyers’ Trust Accounts as a professional fiduciary for the exclusive benefit of the client.

Williams in 2014 engaged in numerous personal transactions using $453,695 that belonged to two individuals who had transferred these funds into one of Williams’ Lawyer’s Trust Accounts to obtain a bank loan, according to the statement. Williams failed to report the stolen money on his 2014 individual federal income tax return, and in September 2015, Williams again failed to report the stolen money when he amended his 2014 tax return.

In addition, Williams received three checks from a client for $230,500 between April 14, 2015, and Nov. 1, 2017,  to purchase land. Williams deposited these funds into his bank accounts, but instead of using those funds to purchase land for the client, he engaged in various personal transactions with the money, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

To conceal those personal transactions, Williams sent emails to the client that falsely indicated he had used the money to purchase land from at least Nov. 28, 2018, to Dec. 3, 2018, the statement said.

Williams also fraudulently obtained loans in the name of the client and his company from two commercial lenders: ProBuilder Financial LLC and Velocity Commercial Capital. For these loans, according to the statement. Williams falsely witnessed or notarized the forged signature of the client, who did not authorize or even know about the fraudulent loan applications.

ProBuilder lent a total of $340,000 and Velocity lent a total of $334,000. Williams received four wire transfers of loan proceeds to his bank accounts totaling $379,888, which he spent for his own personal use. After ProBuilder sought repayment of its loans, Williams sent fraudulent emails in February 2019 attaching a mortgage on his home that bore the falsely notarized and forged signature of his ex-wife, a false pre-approval letter for a loan to his mother that bore the forged signature of a bank officer, and a false power of attorney that bore the forged signature of the client.

Williams in 2019 defrauded a private investment firm, Lore Investment Group LLC, of approximately $1.1 million, according to the statement, and attempted to defraud another private investment firm, Battles Capital Investments, of approximately $1.2 million, both concerning his purchase of a property in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Williams also in 2019 attempted to defraud three other commercial lenders by obtaining loans in the amounts of $1.365 million, $1.35 million and $1.7 million, either on behalf of his client or himself, to purchase another property in Boston.

Former Real Estate Attorney Sentenced to Five Years for Fraud

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min