Former Gwinnett Lawyer Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Funds from His Clients
ATLANTA—Former Gwinnett County, Georgia, lawyer Michael Rene Berlon has been sentenced to five years, three months in prison for stealing more than $2 million from clients of his former law firm and using it for his own benefit.
“The defendant was a respected member of the community and held an important position of trust. Where most lawyers conscientiously live up to this trust, Berlon instead violated it by stealing large sums from his clients for his personal gain with little regard for how it affected those who trusted him with their money,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn.
“While offering up his services as an attorney, Mr. Berlon outright stole from his clients. This sentence now holds him accountable for his senseless and greed based criminal conduct,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
According to Acting United States Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Berlon was a solo practitioner in Grayson, Georgia, and the owner of the Law Office of Michael R. Berlon. Over the course of nearly six years, from 2008 to 2014, Berlon obtained more than $2 million in client funds. He usually obtained those funds by either telling the clients that he would hold the funds in a trust for safe-keeping, or that he would use the funds to resolve a financial or legal problem on the client’s behalf. Instead, Berlon used the funds for his own benefit, including making personal purchases and paying travel expenses, and, in some instances, repaying other clients.
In one instance, Berlon obtained money from two individuals who were looking for his assistance with starting a new business. Berlon told the victims that he would help them get a loan, but that they had to provide a percentage of the requested loan amount as a down payment. Instead of assisting them with obtaining a loan, Berlon used the funds for his personal expenses and debts. As part of his plea agreement, Berlon agreed to pay restitution of more than $2 million to fifteen different individuals.
Michael Rene Berlon, 55, of Loganville, Georgia, has been sentenced to five years, three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,009,542.81. Berlon was convicted of wire fraud after pleading guilty on February 25, 2015.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jamie L. Mickelson prosecuted the case.