Former Lawrence Attorney Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Stealing More Than $1 Million From Clients
Defendant Stole Money for His Personal Use
WOBURN – A now-disbarred Lawrence attorney was sentenced to three years in prison for 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.
Today in Middlesex Superior Court, Judge Kathe Tuttman sentenced Phillip Thompson, age 35, of Lawrence, to three years to three years and a day in state prison, with five years of probation to serve upon his release. Judge Tuttman also ordered Thompson to pay $986,929.80 in restitution.
“This defendant employed a long-term, widespread scheme in which he used his position as a lawyer to deliberately steal more than one million dollars from multiple vulnerable clients,” AG Coakley said. “He will now serve time in prison for this theft and deception. This sentence is the result of collaboration with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and we thank them for their work on this case.”
“This defendant knew his actions were going to affect families in disastrous ways. He used a position of power to steal from victims who were vulnerable, including the owner of a small grocery store, and working families for whom English was not their native language,” District Attorney Ryan said. “With this guilty verdict, Phillip Thompson has been held accountable for his deliberate and deceitful actions.”
On Jan. 16, after a nine-day trial, Thompson was found guilty by a Middlesex Superior Court jury on the charges of Larceny over $250 from a Person over Sixty and Larceny over $250 (8 counts).
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 Officeindicted 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 pending 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.