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Coldwater Man Pleads Guilty in Theft from 95-year-old Law Firm Client

LANSINGJames O’Briant, 63, pled guilty yesterday in the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo County to four counts of Larceny $20,000 or More and two counts of Taxes-Failure to File/False Return, announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.  

O’Briant, a previously disbarred attorney, had access to the victims money through his employment under a licensed attorney. The licensed attorney had a representation agreement with the elderly victim and agreed to temporarily hold their money in the law firm’s trust account for safekeeping. O’Briant transferred the victim’s money from the trust account to the firm’s business accounts and then withdrew and transferred the money again to use for his own purposes. These transfers included over $40,000 to O’Briant’s personal investment accounts. O’Briant did not report the money he stole from the victim on his taxes in 2018 or 2019.

The plea agreement requires O’Briant to pay restitution of $154,511.73 to the victim by the end of April, and to agree to pay restitution to the Michigan Department of Treasury in the amount of $13,556.00. O’Briant will be permitted to be sentenced on one count of Larceny $20,000 or More and one count of Taxes-Failure to File/False Return, and the remaining charges would be dismissed only if the terms of the plea agreement are met. 

“Many older adults need financial management assistance from legal professionals and they should be able to count on the safekeeping of their money when entrusted to a law firm,” said Nessel. “My office will fully prosecute bad actors who steal from their clients to enrich themselves.”

O’Briant will return to the 9th Circuit Court for sentencing before Judge Paul J. Bridenstine on May 6, 2024


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