Lawyer Who Stole from Clients Jailed for Tax Evasion

By White, Kate | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), March 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

Lawyer Who Stole from Clients Jailed for Tax Evasion


White, Kate, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Before being sentenced to two years in prison, a former Charleston attorney told a federal judge he had planned to pay back the money he took from his clients. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced Harold S. Albertson, 65, above the 12 to 18 months recommended by federal advisory sentencing guidelines. Albertson pleaded guilty last year to tax evasion and agreed to pay about $1.2 million to mostly former clients and the Internal Revenue Service.

John Kessler, Albertson's attorney, asked the judge Monday to sentence at the lower end of the guidelines. Albertson thought he would get a large amount of money from a settlement and be able to pay everyone back, Kessler said.

"Mr. Kessler, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston interrupted, "I have a hard time understanding how you can say that with a straight face.

"How can you possibly say he didn't try to hide [money] when he kept no records?

Albertson, who filed for bankruptcy in September 2013, admitted he used one bank account to keep both his personal funds and his clients' funds. With that account, he paid his personal expenses and didn't maintain any records to keep the expenses separate.

He would lure his clients into investing money with him by promising a high rate of return, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Blaire Malkin said it wasn't a typical Ponzi scheme.

Albertson would "go to [his clients' houses] and give them $200 there and $200 here, Malkin said.

Albertson also tried to avoid paying $102,410 of income tax owed between 2003 and 2010. He was charged in the form of an information, which usually signals a defendant is cooperating with an investigation.

From 2008 to 2010, Albertson made deposits of about $949,000, $1 million, $1.6 million and $802,000, according to prosecutors. After making deposits, the charge states, Albertson immediately withdrew money and kept a minimal balance in the account. …

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