EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 14, 2013

Disbarred Lawrence lawyer charged with stealing $900K from clients

By Paul Tennant

---- — LAWRENCE — Authorities say a disbarred Lawrence lawyer pocketed more than $416,000 from an insurance company that was supposed to go to an elderly couple, and in another case failed to return $60,000 to a minister that had been held in escrow.

That’s part of the more than $900,000 Phillip Thompson, 35, allegedly stole from clients, according to an indictment against him, announced yesterday by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Thompson, who specialized in real estate transactions until his disbarment, is accused of larceny over $250 from a person over the age of 60, seven counts of larceny over $250 and unauthorized practice of law. He was indicted by a statewide grand jury yesterday.

“This defendant abused his stature as an attorney to take advantage of vulnerable clients,” Coakley said. “We allege that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal use.”

The Attorney General’s Office began investigating allegations against Thompson in 2011 after the Essex County District Attorney’s Office referred complaints against him to Coakley.

The DA’s office “initially looked into allegations” against Thompson, but referred the case to the attorney general because “the crimes were committed in multiple jurisdictions,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Thompson stole more than $900,000 from at least seven clients between July 2007 and June 2011, Coakley said. While representing clients in real estate transactions, he failed to pay off loans and did not give clients money that was owed them, the indictment charges.

Thompson is accused of pocketing more than $416,000 from an insurance company that should have gone to an elderly couple whose house burned down.

He’s also charged with failing to return $60,000 that a church asked him to hold in escrow pending a closing on land it wanted to buy. When the closing did not happen, Thompson kept the $60,000 for his own use, the attorney general alleged.

Thompson was suspended from practice in June 2010, yet he continued to solicit business for his law firm, Coakley charged. He is expected to be arraigned in Essex Superior Court at a later date.

Thompson failed to appear at hearings before the Board of Bar Overseers, which recommended his disbarment, according to an opinion written by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Barbara Lenk, who ordered his disbarment.

Lenk noted in her July 2012 opinion that Thompson made restitution to some of the clients from whom he allegedly stole.

“The respondent has made full restitution to only one client, in the amount of $75,234, and partial restitution in the amount of $55,000 to one third party. These sums pale in comparison to the seven-figure loss suffered by the respondent’s clients and third-party victims,” Lenk wrote.

Thompson was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in December 2002. He could not be reached for comment on this story.

Disbarred lawyers must wait a minimum of eight years before applying for reinstatement.

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