Attorney Thomas Dickson has pleaded guilty to defrauding more than 50 clients out of funds that were deposited into his law firm’s trust account, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
He could face up to 20 years in prison.
“As a lawyer, Dickson had a duty to act with his clients’ best interests in mind,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Instead, he used his position at the law firm to steal from clients he was supposed to protect.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office called Dickson’s actions reckless.
“The defendant in this matter displayed a reckless disregard for his firm’s many clients by diverting monies due them to his personal account,” said Giuliano. “The FBI will continue to investigate such cases of criminal misconduct and bring them forward for prosecution.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court in December 2008, while employed with a large Atlanta law firm, Dickson was retained by tenants in common (TIC) owners of commercial real estate purchased through DBSI, Inc. DBSI, Inc., an Idaho based company, sold TIC investments or fractional ownership interests in commercial real estate to investors across the country.
In November 2008, DBSI filed bankruptcy and many of the investors lost their life savings. In December 2008, several TIC property owners retained Dickson to represent their interests in the bankruptcy action. In 2009, Dickson encouraged TIC owners to transfer rents and other income into his law firm’s trust account.
Between February 24, 2010, and January 6, 2012, Dickson directed his law firm’s accounting department to unlawfully transfer over $300,000 from the law firm’s trust account to a business checking account in Plano, Texas. Dickson led the firm’s accounting department to believe that the funds were being transferred on behalf of TIC clients to pay third party expenses. Instead the money was transferred into a personal checking account controlled by Dickson and his wife.
In January 2012, the law firm initiated an internal investigation and Dickson, 52, of Atlanta, Ga., was terminated. In March 2013, Dickson was disbarred by the Georgia State Bar.
The charge of wire fraud in this case carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.00.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 30, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. before United States District Judge Willis B. Hunt.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Brown is prosecuting the case.
(Photo: U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates at a press conference)