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Attorney Pleads Guilty To Defrauding Clients Out Of $500,000; Legal Malpractice Case Pending

Georgia attorney Wilson R. Smith plead guilty in federal court on Friday to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, has separate legal malpractice case pending against him.

The guilty plea before U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood came on a negotiated plea to a three-count indictment charging him with converting numerous settlements for clients for his own use.

Smith, a 63-year-old personal injury attorney, will be sentenced within several months after probation officers complete a pre-sentencing report.

He remains in custody at the Bulloch County Jail in Statesboro.

In addition to the guilty plea to mail fraud, Smith also admitted aggravated identity theft on Aug. 16, 2013, in Toombs County.

Prosecutors charged that Smith stole more than $1 million in a scheme to settle “multiple of his clients’ cases” without their knowledge and to convert settlement proceeds for his own use.

The schemes occurred from August 2013 through January 2015 in Toombs County — the three-count indictment for mail and bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

As part of the scheme, Smith is accused of depositing forged settlement checks into his firm’s trust account, then withdrawing the sums for his own use.

Included in the schemes cited in the indictment was an Aug. 14, 2013, transaction to have “sent by commercial carrier a $500,000 settlement check for $500,000 from Medical Mutual (insurance company) payable to HM and DM.”

That transaction involved a settlement check from a medical malpractice case to Heather and Dewey Mallette, a Missouri couple.

The Mallettes, represented by Savannah attorney Bart Turner, sued Smith in Chatham County State Court on Dec. 23, alleging that he settled a medical malpractice case for $500,000 without their consent and did not remit the settlement sum. Smith is accused of legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duties and fraud.

That 

legal malpractice case remains pending before Judge Hermann W. Coolidge Jr.

Meanwhile, Smith remains under an indefinite suspension from practicing law.

Originally posted by Jan Skutch on savannahnow.com.

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