Friday, 21 March 2014 18:41

U.S. v. Jeffrey Witt: Aggravated Identity Theft

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A federal grand jury indicted Jeffrey Witt, 39, an attorney in Missouri, on one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of bank fraud. He was arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York upon returning from Istanbul, Turkey.

The indictment states that he submitted a false loan application under the name of an individual known as "P.W." The application was meant to obtain a $100,000 line of credit using P.W.'s home as collateral. The real P.W. did not know the loan had been applied for in his name.

According to allegations in the indictment, Witt then provided another person with fake documents so that this person could pretend to be P.W. at the loan's closing. Witt then withdrew $60,000 right away from the line of credit approved, using it to pay his personal expenses.

When P.W. discovered the loan had been taken out under his name and confronted Witt about it, Witt told him he had canceled the loan and provided a fake letter with a forged signature of a bank officer, as well as a false Deed of Release document, to provide to P.W. that the loan had indeed been cancelled.

Witt disappeared in late 2013 after legal difficulties with clients arose. The Chief Disciplinary Counsel in Missouri filed a complaint that included 10 counts against Witt in October 2013. The complaint claimed Witt had lied to clients and the court, missed hearings and deadlines, mishandled funds, did not file required documents, and did not tell his clients that one of his employees was a felon and former lawyer who had been disbarred.

In late October 2013, a judge in St. Louis County handed down a verdict totaling almost $1 million against Witt and his firm in a 2011 malpractice action. Witt has been sued by five of his clients since 2010. Those who won the judgment on October 22, 2013, sued him again for nonpayment of the judgment.

If he is convicted on the latest charges, Witt could be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison and fines of $1 million for the bank fraud and two years in prison, consecutive to other prison terms, plus a $250,000 fine for the identity theft charge.

Resources

United States v. Jeffrey Witt, Indictment

"Missouri Attorney Is Really in the Soup," Joe Harris, Courthouse News Service

Press Release, U.S. District Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

 

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