Former paralegal who stole nearly $600,000 gets 20 years in prison

 

 

The paralegal for an Augusta-area law firm who stole nearly $600,000 from the firm and its clients tried to talk his way out of trouble one more time Friday.

But it didn’t work.

Richard Lee Owen Jr., 61, was given almost 20 years in prison, a sentence he will serve without the possibility of parole.

His speech in U.S. District Court on Friday failed to impress the prosecutor, who described Owen’s statement as “the ramblings of a unrepentant con man.”

“Mr. Owen is unscrupulous, cunning … reprehensible,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari.

Owen tried to shift the blame to others, minimized the harm he caused clients of the Vic Hawk Law Group and suggested that federal investigators and prosecutors only needed to track down the coin collector who Owen claimed cheated him in order to collect $350,000 to $400,000 for the victims.

Between 2009 and 2012, Owen used his position as a paralegal/office manager for the firm to access its trust account, which held funds earmarked for clients and their medical and legal expenses. He also intercepted and cashed
checks sent to the firm from other law firms and insurance companies.

The schemes took an FBI forensic accountant two years to piece together, Agent Gary Frazier said in testimony.

Owen forged client and attorney signatures to steal $594,731 from 54 victims, including the law firm. He used accounts with seven financial institutions to funnel the money. In one week in December 2012 when Hawk and his associates were unraveling part of the
fraud, Owen moved $183,000 through his accounts and eventually withdrew the funds in cash, Frazier said.

To hide the thefts, Owen created bogus documents the law firm used to keep track of payments and bills for each client. He used one such fraudulent document in court during his March trial to try to convince a victim’s wife that the money due to her husband was paid. In fact, Owen stole almost $136,000 from the client.

Owen faced a potentially steep prison term for bank fraud and money laundering because of his extensive criminal history. His potential sentence was increased because of the sophistication of the schemes, obstruction of justice and Owen’s inability to
accept responsibility for his crimes.

“I really believe Richard Owen is a threat to the community,” Hawk told the judge Friday.

Hawk pledged to ensure all of the victimized clients are repaid. Until last fall he had hoped the $300,000 in Owen’s coin collection could be recovered, but that
doesn’t seem likely now, he said.

U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. delayed finalizing the order of restitution payments in order to get a complete list of the victims and the amounts due to each.

When Owen completes his prison term, he will have an additional five years to serve on probation.

Paralegal accused in near $600,000 embezzlement pleads guilty after two days of trial, could be exposed to 50-year prison term
Trial begins for paralegal accused of stealing nearly $600,000 from local law firm
Con job at law firm to end criminal career
Former Augusta law firm office manager indicted on bank fraud charges
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