On Tuesday, August 22, 2023, The Business Journals reported a significant development in a Ponzi scheme case involving a former Providence personal injury lawyer. Peter P.D. Leach, who hasn’t practiced law in Rhode Island since 2019 due to previous allegations, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion charges.

Leach confessed to a federal judge that he had misappropriated more than $500,000 in client settlement funds, attempted to hide his illicit gains from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and evaded payment of over $250,000 in taxes.

The scheme involved Leach forging client settlement checks and depositing them into his attorney IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) account. He utilized these funds to cover personal expenses and repay other clients whose money he had embezzled. Additionally, Leach deceived his clients about the status of their cases, misleading them about the disposition of their settlements, as revealed by Cunha during the plea announcement.

According to a criminal information document filed on July 30, Leach used the misappropriated client funds to finance various expenditures, including payments related to the Wheeler School, Syracuse University, Pitzer College, the Metacomet Country Club, as well as travel and dining expenses.

Operating as a sole proprietor specializing in medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, and personal injury cases, Leach had previously agreed with clients to receive 33% of any settlements he negotiated on their behalf. However, between 2014 and 2019, he failed to handle and account for these funds appropriately, leading to the charges brought against him.

Prosecutors assert that over the course of several years, Leach’s misconduct resulted in the misappropriation of more than $500,000 in client settlement funds, inflicting losses exceeding $250,000 on the affected clients.

The investigation leading to the charges was a collaborative effort between the Rhode Island State Police and the IRS. Leach is scheduled to be sentenced on January 4, 2024.

This case serves as a reminder of the importance of trust and integrity within the legal profession. The guilty plea by Peter P.D. Leach highlights the severe consequences of betraying clients’ trust and engaging in fraudulent practices. The legal system aims to protect individuals from such misconduct and ensure accountability for those who violate the law.

 

Source: The Business Journals