Disbarred Georgia lawyer agrees to repay $1.6M in plea
A disbarred Georgia lawyer accused of stealing money from his clients is pleading guilty to a federal mail fraud charge.
George William “Bill” Snipes pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Columbus before U.S. District Judge Clay Land.
Columbus police charged Snipes in 2018 with stealing more than $1 million from nine former clients. The prosecution was later handed over to federal authorities, with Snipes agreeing to plead to a criminal charge without being indicted.
On Wednesday, the 68-year-old Columbus resident pleaded guilty to mailing a September 2017 letter that asked an insurer to mail him $48,000 in settlement checks representing lost wages and medical expenses from a car wreck after settling a case without clients’ knowledge.
Snipes admits he took the money for himself. He agreed in his plea to pay a total of $1.64 million in restitution to nine former clients, with amounts ranging from the $48,000 mentioned in the mail fraud count up to $450,000.
Federal prosecutors say Snipes made numerous improper withdrawals from a trust account where he was supposed to keep clients’ money untouched, including payments to a rental company Snipes owned, parent-teacher groups and storage facilities. There were also checks made out to “cash” totaling $468,750 and checks to Snipes worth $167,700.
Snipes will be sentenced Oct. 19. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines are likely to call for a sentence of four to seven years, depending on how they are calculated. Snipes also could be fined up to $250,000. He’s free on bail for now.
When he was initially arraigned on state charges, The Ledger-Enquirer reports several victims or family members attended the hearing.
“You stole all my mama’s money,” a woman declared during Snipes’ bail hearing in May 2018. “You can do whatever you want to me!” she shouted as deputies escorted her from the courtroom.
The state Supreme Court disbarred Snipes later in 2018.