SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Savannah attorney Benjamin Sheftall Eichholz - whose television ads champion "win-win" - has been named in a 77-count federal indictment charging he schemed to embezzle more than $950,000 from pension plans for employees of his law firm.
The Wednesday indictment also charges that Eichholz, 58, lied repeatedly to federal investigators and obstructed justice, U.S. Attorney Edmund Booth Jr. said Thursday in announcing the action.
Eichholz, who has practiced law in Savannah since 1976, specializes in personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Contacted at his law office Thursday, Eichholz referred all comment to his lawyer, Charles Bowen.
"Obviously, we have no comment at this time," Bowen said, adding that he received a copy of the indictment early Thursday afternoon.
No initial appearance has been scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith.
Chief U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. has been assigned to preside in the case.
Eichholz founded the Eichholz Law Firm P.C. in September 1977. Since then his practice has variously operated as Eichholz Law Firm P.C., Eichholz and Associates P.C., and Law Offices of Benjamin Sheftall Eichholz P.C.
His frequent television advertisements, featuring actor Robert Vaughn, promise that "you mean business" when dealing with insurance companies if you are represented by the Eichholz firm.
The federal action alleges Eichholz provided the pension benefits, under his direction, to reward "long and loyal service" by employees of his firm. It was funded "solely by employer contributions," the indictment said.
Nineteen employees were participants in the plan between 2001 and October 2008 when the alleged misconduct occurred, the indictment said.
During that period, Eichholz, assisted by others, "embezzled, stole and ... converted more than $950,000 for his own interest and on his own account," the indictment charged.
During that same period, Eichholz "repeatedly executed, mailed and filed false" forms with the labor department "in an effort to both execute and conceal his scheme to defraud," the indictment charged.
He maintained bank accounts at various financial institutions using money intended for the plans and plan participants, the indictment charged.
And, it said, he "made false statements and obstructed justice ... in an effort to cover up his fraud, thefts and embezzlements."
In one instance, the indictment charges, Eichholz took $56,100 to buy himself Flora Danica fine china, which he displayed in his house."
The indictment also said he would take checks drawn on the account and deposit them into accounts that he controlled.
For example, he took $70,000 and deposited it into companies "owned and controlled by his wife," the indictment said.
The indictment is not Eichholz's first flap with the federal court for the Southern District of Georgia and its Savannah division.
In 2006, Judge Moore and fellow District Judge B. Avant Edenfield adopted findings by Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lamar Davis Jr. and barred Eichholz from practice in that court for two years for violating rules governing lawyers' conduct in representing clients in that court.
The Georgia Supreme Court, in a ruling last month, said the State Bar of Georgia could not suspend Eichholz from practicing in State Court under the federal ruling.