Local Attorney Pleads Guilty to Multiple Federal Fraud Charges
ST. LOUIS, MO—St. Charles County attorney Jeffrey Witt pled guilty to three (3) federal felony charges: falsifying documents to obtain a bank loan secured by a St. Louis County home which did not actually belong to him, using an associate to impersonate the true home owner at the bank loan closing, and cashing legal client settlement checks without their knowledge.
According to court documents and statements made in court, during September 2013, Witt submitted a loan application in the name an individual identified in documents as PW, in order to obtain a $100,000 line of credit secured by the PW’s St. Louis area residence. PW, the individual home owner was unaware of Witt’s loan application. Witt provided a female associate with false documentation and identification in PW’s name so the associate could impersonate PW during the loan closing at the bank. Together they were able to obtain the $100,000 bank loan credit line. Witt immediately drew out $60,000 from the credit line, which he deposited into his law firm bank account and then withdrew for personal purposes. Subsequent to the loan closing PW learned of Witt’s action and confronted him. In order to conceal the scheme, Witt falsely represented to PW that he had cancelled the loan. To convince PW, Witt created a false letter on fake bank letterhead, forged the signature of a bank officer, and created a false “Deed of Release,” all of which purportedly released the Deed of Trust on PW’s home securing the fraudulent loan.
Additionally, as part of his law practice, Witt would enter into settlement discussions on behalf of one and more of his legal clients. Several times, without the knowledge of his clients, Witt settled their legal cases, accepted settlement checks on their behalf, and forged their signatures on their settlement checks. He admitted with his plea that he deposited the checks into his law firm bank account and spent those funds on his own personal expenses and business expenses unrelated to those clients without their knowledge. Further, and in order to conceal his scheme, Witt falsely represented to his clients that he had not settled their cases or received settlement checks.
Witt was arrested on the charges by FBI Special Agents on March 7, 2014 as he arrived in New York City from Turkey.
Witt, 39, St. Charles, MO, pled guilty to one felony count of bank fraud, one felony count of aggravated identity theft and one felony count of mail fraud before United States District Judge E. Richard Webber. Sentencing has been set for October 16, 2014.
Bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million, mail fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000, and aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory 2 year term of imprisonment consecutive to any term of imprisonment on the fraud charges and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.