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Lawyer who stole $4M from clients gets 15 years in prison

February 5, 2021 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A disbarred lawyer who stole more than $4 million from clients and even sent phony checks to convince them he had won their cases was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison.

Shant Ohanian, 38, of Burbank, was sentenced for wire fraud. A judge said he intends to order Ohanian to pay $2.5 million in restitution, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

During the five years before his 2017 disbarment, Ohanian bilked clients in cases ranging from immigration applications and commercial disputes to divorces and personal injury claims, the statement said.

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“In each case, Ohanian took no meaningful action on his clients’ behalf despite billing them for thousands of dollars or asking them to pay millions of dollars in litigation-related fees.” the statement said.

Ohanian did “nothing substantial” for two clients in a business dispute “despite telling them for six years that the case settled in their favor” and sending them more than $3 million in counterfeit checks, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Hired to help a client get a green card, Ohanian claimed he sued the federal government for failing to provide it and said the government had been ordered to pay $13.5 million in damages.

Ohanian sent the client phony emails and court orders with forged signatures of officials, including a state judge, to cover his tracks, prosecutors said.

Another client was falsely notified of a phony $7.2 million award in a business case. Ohanian made several calls to the client in which he pretended to be bank or government officials, prosecutors said.

Ohanian also defrauded people who “were caught in foreign war zones and sought refugee status in the United States,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. “Ohanian took their money, claimed he filed the appropriate paperwork, but did nothing.”

Ohanian pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2019. His wife pleaded not guilty to the same charge and is awaiting trial.