Former Easthampton attorney gets 5 years in prison for financial fraud

  • CREATAS CREATAS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2020 5:19:28 PM

SPRINGFIELD — A former Easthampton attorney who admitted to defrauding clients, commercial lenders and an investment firm over the last several years was ordered by a judge Friday to forfeit more than $2 million, pay $2.6 million in restitution and serve more than five years in federal prison.

Philip R. Williams was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Springfield to 66 months in federal prison and 36 months, or three years, of supervised release, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow, who prosecuted the case. Williams must forfeit and pay the millions of dollars in restitution to various parties and pay $2,600 in court fees, Breslow said. Judge Mark G. Mastroianni was assigned to the case.

Williams’ lawyer, Andrew G. Levchuk, of Amherst, declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon.

Williams had pleaded guilty in December to 15 counts of wire fraud; two counts of engaging in financial transactions with more than $10,000 of the proceeds derived from criminal activity; six counts of money laundering; and two counts of tax fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for Massachusetts.

According to a sentencing memorandum written by Breslow, Williams “engaged in an astonishingly brazen series of frauds that capitalized on his trusted status as an attorney” beginning in 2013 and continuing until early 2019, causing more than $2 million in losses to his individual and corporate victims.

Breslow wrote that Williams maintained trust accounts at several banks to hold client funds and abused these and other accounts to enrich himself and defraud others.

In 2014, Williams engaged in personal transactions with $453,695 belonging to two people who had transferred this money into one of these trust accounts for the purposes of obtaining a bank loan. He then failed to report the stolen funds as income on his 2014 tax return, according to Breslow.

Between 2015 and 2017, Williams also received $230,500 from a client intended for land purchases that Williams instead used for personal transactions, Breslow wrote. Williams also sent his client emails that falsely indicated he had used the money to buy land.

Williams also used this client’s name and company to fraudulently obtain $340,000 in loans from ProBuilder Financial, LLC, as well as a total $334,000 in loans from Velocity Commercial Capital, according to Breslow. Williams received four wire transfers of loan proceeds totaling $379,888 to his bank account that he used for himself. After ProBuilder sought loan repayment, Williams sent the firm fraudulent emails with fraudulent documents including a mortgage on his home that bore the falsely notarized and forged signature of his ex-wife.

In March 2019, Breslow wrote that Williams agreed to purchase a home in Saint Petersburg, Florida from its owner for $2.2 million by borrowing $1.65 million from the owner and paying the remainder in cash. Williams arranged to get this cash by separately borrowing $1.1 million from Lore Investment Group, LLC for purchase of the same property. He did not tell Lore about the other loan, and posed as a real estate agent and committed multiple acts of fraud. He used the proceeds from the Lore fraud for personal transactions, Breslow wrote.

Williams also tried to defraud another firm, Battles Capital Investments, of around $1.2 million concerning the purchase of this Florida property, according to court documents.

In early 2019, Williams attempted to defraud three other commercial lenders by obtaining three loans of $1.365 million, $1.35 million, and $1.7 million, either on behalf of his client or himself, to purchase property in Boston. Breslow wrote that Williams continued to commit crimes even after the government became aware of some of his crimes.

In his sentencing memo, Breslow asked the judge to sentence Williams to 7-½ years in federal prison and three years of supervisory release. He argued that such a sentence would reflect the gravity of Williams’ offenses, deter others from committing similar crimes and protect the public from similar crimes by Williams.

The client looking to purchase land that Williams had defrauded sent a victim impact statement included in court documents, which read in part, “This kind of deception and cheating that I was exposed to from Attorney Williams had resulted in the loss of my life’s hard work savings at the time I reached 60 years of age … my soul is completely destroyed by this treachery.”

Levchuk, Williams’ lawyer, requested that the court sentence Williams to time served, a term of probation and full restitution to his victims. He asked the court to place Williams in home confinement if he was sentenced to prison as Williams has a medical history putting him at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. He wrote that Williams has given up his law license.

Levchuk stated that Williams began using drugs in 2014, which marked the beginning of his descent into criminal activity. According to Levchuk, Williams’ therapist said that Williams is committed to reestablishing a life for himself without criminality.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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