Former Lawrence Attorney Found Guilty on All Counts in Connection with Stealing More Than $1 Million From Clients
Defendant Stole Money for His Personal Use
WOBURN – A now-disbarred Lawrence attorney was found guilty of stealing more than $1 million from multiple clients through a series of financial schemes, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced today.
After a nine-day trial, Phillip Thompson, age 35, of Lawrence, was found guilty yesterday by a Middlesex Superior Court jury on the charges of Larceny over $250 from a Person over Sixty and Larceny over $250 (8 counts). He will be sentenced in Middlesex Superior Court on Jan. 30.
“This defendant stole more than one million dollars from vulnerable clients, including non-English speakers and in one case, someone over the age of sixty,” AG Coakley said. “He abused his stature as an attorney to operate a scheme that spanned two counties and involved multiple victims who trusted him with their money, only for him to violate that trust. This result is due to the joint efforts of our office and the Middlesex DA’s Office.”
“Over a number of years, this defendant, a lawyer, was intentionally and consistently stealing large sums of money from clients,” District Attorney Ryan said. “Instead of helping clients complete mortgage transactions, as he was entrusted to do, the defendant stole their money and used it to pay for his car payment on his BMW and made large cash withdrawals. The defendant knew his actions were illegal and yet he continued this scheme, which has left many victims at a significant financial loss. Thanks to the collaborative investigation work and joint prosecution by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, this defendant has been held accountable for his crimes.
On Nov. 29, 2011, the Middlesex DA’s Office indicted Thompson on charges in connection with thefts from a client and a local bank, Sovereign Bank, now known as Santander.
The AG’s Office indicted and arraigned Thompson in Essex Superior Court on additional charges in the summer of 2013. Those charges were consolidated into Middlesex Superior Court as they were related to the open case in Middlesex and were part of a continuing scheme by Thompson, acting as their attorney, to defraud his clients. Thompson worked as an attorney out of his Lawrence law office, primarily specializing in real estate, and also ran a debt collection agency out of his office.
In 2010, the Middlesex DA’s Office began their investigation into fraudulent activities by Thompson after receiving a report of a theft from Sovereign Bank in Lowell. The investigation revealed that the defendant stole more than $450,000 from a Malden family in the fall of 2009 by taking the money intended for refinancing the mortgage on their Malden home and converting it to his own personal use. He never paid their mortgage as he was hired to do. Subsequently, to replace the money from that theft, the defendant stole again by negotiating a withdrawal of approximately $450,000 from Sovereign Bank from accounts with insufficient funds.
The AG’s Office began their investigation in 2011 after the matter was referred by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. The AG’s investigation revealed that between July 2007 and June 2011, Thompson stole more than $900,000 from at least seven clients.
In several cases, Thompson represented clients in several real estate transactions, failing to pay off loans and failing to give funds to clients who were owed money. He also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from mortgage lenders meant to be used for real estate transactions. However, rather than paying off the old mortgage loans for the transactions, Thompson converted this money for his own use.
In one case, Thompson represented an elderly man and his wife who were seeking to obtain a settlement from their insurance company after their home burned down. When the insurance company issued more than $416,000 in checks jointly to the clients and Thompson, the defendant converted the funds for his own use and the clients never received any of the money.
This case was prosecuted by Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Elisha Willis, chief of District Attorney Ryan’s Special Investigations Unit and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Doherty, of AG Coakley’s Fraud and Financial Crimes Division, and with assistance from Investigators Stephen Bethoney and Kevin Floster of AG Coakley’s Financial Investigations Division, and Doug Nagengast, financial investigator from DA Ryan’s office, Victim Witness Advocates Megan Murphy and Ashley Cinelli of the AG’s Victim Services Division and members of the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office.