Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two lawyers charged in overbilling scheme

Two state attorneys face federal wire fraud charges for allegedly overbilling for defense work in criminal matters.

Jeremy Vickers, 36, of Point Pleasant and Christopher Bledsoe, 33, of Pineville, were each charged with one count of wire fraud while handling cases for the state Public Defender Service, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Both lawyers have agreed to plead guilty to the charges, according to the release.

Vickers billed more than 24 hours for one day's work on 173 occasions, the release states. He submitted the false bills to the Public Defender Service through an unnamed third-party vendor, which was also ultimately reimbursed by the service, the release states.

In a similar but unrelated charge, Bledsoe forged a circuit court judge's signature on payment vouchers and other court documents so he could submit falsely inflated invoices to a different, unnamed third party, the release states.

Last year, Mingo County lawyer Bill Duty was sentenced to six months in federal prison after admitting to netting more than $120,000 in false invoices he sent to yet another third-party.

"Lawyers take an oath to uphold the law," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. "That's why I knew that other members of this profession will agree with me that it is alarming to have three lawyers prosecuted in this district over the last year for breaking the law in the course of performing their duties."

The charges against Bledsoe and Vickers arose out of a West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations probe into fraudulent billings submitted by attorneys for services in appointed criminal cases.

By Charleston Gazette

Source: Charleston Gazette

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