Wilson Smith, an attorney charged with fraud and aggravated identity theft, will appear Tuesday before a federal judge. The Georgia lawyer allegedly stole more than $1 million of his clients’ settlement money.
Smith, 63, will be taken before U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith to be informed of the charges against him and is expected to enter a not guilty plea. The case is assigned to U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick.
Smith was arrested Jan. 13 on three state felony charges – theft by conversion and two counts of forgery – and remains in custody at the Toombs County Detention Center without bond. He has not entered a plea to the state charges.
The three-count federal indictment returned Feb. 5 for mail and bank fraud and aggravated identify theft charges Smith’s schemes occurred from August 2013 through January in Toombs County.
As part of the scheme, Smith, a personal injury attorney, 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 Missouri couple Heather and Dewey Mallette.
Meanwhile Savannah attorney Bart Turner, who represents the Mallettes in a civil case against Smith, has told a Chatham County State Court judge that Smith’s attempts to delay discovery in their attempt to recover some $500,000 cannot be taken seriously.
“Mr. Smith cannot seriously think his own conduct can be used as a shield to the plaintiffs’ legitimate right to see the truth,” Turner argued in court documents filed last week opposing Smith’s effort to delay his case until his criminal charges are disposed of.
Turner contends that Smith’s continuing detention in the Toombs County jail do not prevent him from being deposed or meeting with his lawyers.
The Mallettes are suing Smith, his law partner, Robert L. Jenkins, and their firm for
legal malpractice and fraud over a $500,000 settlement in a medical malpractice case he won by deception and never informed them of.
Smith’s lawyers are attempting to halt discovery and the case itself because of Smith’s incarceration.
The case remains pending before Chatham County State Court Judge Hermann Coolidge.
Originally posted by Jan Skutch on Savannahnow.com.
Legal Malpractice – Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney – Los Angeles