Florence Attorney Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud Offenses
COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that William J. Rivers, III, age 48, of Darlington, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Florence by Chief United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten to 60 months and ordered to pay $2,702,060.00 in restitution, for violations of mail fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that clients of Schurlknight & Rivers P.A., a personal injury law firm in Florence, South Carolina, complained to the South Carolina Bar Association that they had been defrauded by William J. Rivers, III and his partner, John L. Schurlknight. During the resulting investigation by the Disciplinary Counsel of the South Carolina Supreme Court, an investigator scheduled an appointment with John L. Schurlknight. However, on the day of the meeting with Schurlknight, he committed suicide.
Investigation revealed that between October 2006 and November 2012, more than 100 clients of the firm were defrauded of more than $3,300,000. Twenty-six of the victims were directly attributable to actions by Rivers. Rivers defrauded his clients by forging their names on releases to settle personal injury cases and lying to his clients telling them the cases had not been settled. The money was then kept by the law firm. In addition to keeping the settlement monies of his clients, Rivers also failed to pay medical providers with the settlement proceeds, leaving the clients owing hundreds of thousands of dollars for the medical treatment they had received.
The case was investigated by the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney William E. Day, II of the Columbia office handled the case.